The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Ling Lunch 5/14 - Juliet Stanton

Speaker: Juliet Stanton (MIT)
Title: Constraints on contrast motivate nasal cluster effects
Time: Thurs 5/14, 12:30-1:45
Place: 32-D461

Many languages disallow sequences of nasal clusters (*[NC1 V NC2]). In languages where these sequences are banned, there are a number of attested repairs. For example, in some systems, the first NC is realized as a plain nasal, N (1).

(1) NC1 nasalization in Ngaju Dayak (Blust 2012)

a. /maN-bando/ > [ma-mando] ‘turn against’ (cf. [mam-bagi] ‘divide’)

b. /maN-gundu/ > [ma-ŋundul] ‘wrap up’ (cf. [maŋ-gila] ‘drive crazy’)

Previous analyses of nasal cluster effects generally fall into one of two camps. Many authors (e.g. Meinhof 1932, Blust 2012) claim that effects like (1) are dissimilation, driven by an OCP constraint (*NC…NC). Others (Herbert 1977, 1986; Jones 2000) claim that effects like (1) are neutralization, driven by a constraint on contrast: in the sequence [NC1 V NC2], anticipatory nasalization from NC2 renders NC1 insufficiently distinct from N.

In this talk I argue from the larger typology of nasal cluster effects that the contrast-based analysis is the right one. I show that the contrast-based account (i) accurately predicts the conditions under which languages exhibit certain types of repairs, (ii) accurately predicts implicational generalizations regarding which kinds of [NC1 V NC2] sequences are repaired, and (iii) accurately predicts generalizations regarding the locality of repairs. I show that an analysis in which effects like (1) are treated as dissimilation is not capable of accounting for any of these generalizations, let alone all of them together.