The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Phonology Circle 10/5 - Juliet Stanton

Speaker: Juliet Stanton (MIT)
Title: Environmental shielding is contrast preservation
Date: Monday, October 5th
Time: 5-6:30
Place: 32D-831

The term “environmental shielding” refers to a class of processes where the phonetic realization of a nasal depends on its vocalic context. In Kaiwá (Tupí, Bridgeman 1961), for example, nasals are prenasalized before oral (/ma/ > [mba]) but not nasal (/mã/ > [mã]) vowels. Herbert (1986:199) claims that shielding occurs to protect a contrast in vocalic nasality: if Kaiwá /ma/ were realized as [ma], the [a] would likely carry some degree of nasal coarticulation, and be less distinct from nasal /ã/ as a result. This paper provides new arguments for Herbert’s position. I show that a contrast-based analysis of shielding correctly predicts a number of typological generalizations, and argue that any successful analysis of shielding must make reference to contrast.