The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Phonology Circle 11/1 - Sverre Stausland Johnsen

Speaker:Sverre Stausland Johnsen (Harvard)
Title: Phonetic naturalness in Norwegian retroflexion
Time: Monday 11/1, 5pm, 32-D831

In some approaches to phonology, phonetically motivated processes are given a special status within the grammar. Under this view, phonetically motivated processes are cross-linguistically common because the synchronic grammar favors it.

In other approaches, these processes are not granted such a status. Under this view, phonetically motivated processes are common because they emerge more easily over time due to errors in perception and articulation. The presence of a certain pattern is therefore caused by its diachronic development.

Since these approaches make the same predictions about phonetically motivated processes (i.e. they should be common), one place to evaluate them against each other is within the domain of phonetically unmotivated processes.

In this talk, I present data from several dialects in Norway in support of the diachronic perspective, since it is able to make correct predictions about how phonological processes behave in these dialects.

I end the talk with a discussion of experimental support, or lack thereof, for positing phonetic naturalness in grammar.

Upcoming talks:
Nov 8: Natalie Boll-Avetisyan (Potsdam)
Nov 15: Michael Kenstowicz (MIT)
Nov 29: RUMMIT Practice talks
Dec 6: Suyeon Yun (MIT)

You can view the current, up-to-date version of the schedule here (click ‘agenda’ to see the schedule as a list), or subscribe via iCal here.