The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Phonology Circle 3/9 - Hemanga Dutta and Michael Kenstowicz

Speaker: Hemanga Dutta (EFLU / MIT) and Michael Kenstowicz (MIT)
Title: Laryngeal Contrasts in Assamese
Date: Monday, March 9th
Time: 5-6:30
Place: 32-D461

The Indic languages are well known for the four-way /p,b,ph,bh/ contrast in their stop systems that freely combines [±voice] and [±spread gl] at three points of articulation. In this presentation we examine how these contrasts are expressed in Assamese in four contexts: prevocalic, presonorant, word-final, and preobstruent. Our principal finding is that aspirated stops modify their minor point of articulation in word-final position to replicate aspiration as noise either in the release of the stop or during the constriction while in the preobstruent context aspiration is largely lost leading to neutralization with the plain stops. In addition, the voicing contrast is also largely neutralized in preobstruent position. These modifications are analyzed in the licensing by cue framework of Steriade (1997, 2009).