LSA 217: Locality and nonlocality in phonology

Gunnar Ólafur Hansson | session 2 | MW 3:30 – 5:15, 370 Dwinelle Hall

Phonological interactions between segments are predominantly local, involving neighboring segments. Nevertheless, apparent cases of "action at a distance" do exist, such as when two consonants assimilate to (or dissimilate from) each other across a span of intervening segments, or when vowel harmony operates across one or more "transparent" vowels. Such phenomena pose interesting challenges for synchronic models of phonological knowledge as well as for diachronic models of sound change, phonologization and analogical change. This course will focus on issues relating to non-local interactions in segmental phonology, their synchronic analysis and their diachronic emergence and development. We will survey the typology of attested cases of non-local interaction and consider whether some of these may involve articulatorily local interaction either synchronically (gestural extension/spreading) or in their diachronic origins (phonologization of coarticulatory effects). Issues relating to the formal-synchronic analysis of non-local interaction will be discussed in detail, such as feature spreading vs. featural "agreement" as alternative mechanisms for assimilation, and the treatment of transparent vs. opaque interveners (in vowel harmony, consonant harmony, and vowel-consonant interactions). A central question concerns the role of segment-to-segment similarity in facilitating interaction (local and non-local), both in the phonologization process and in the resulting synchronic systems. Finally, we will consider non-local interaction as a learnability problem, especially for models which take phonological constraints/rules to be discovered by the learner rather than predefined in Universal Grammar.

Reading: Selected materials available online.

Prerequisites: A previous course in phonology; some familiarity with Optimality Theory is desirable.

Areas of linguistics: Phonetics, phonology, and morphology

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