The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Phonology Circle 11/30 - Benjamin Storme

Speaker: Benjamin Storme (MIT)
Title: The distribution of R in French and Haitian: evidence for the role of perception
Date: Monday, November 30th
Time: 5-6:30
Place: 32-D831

The distribution of R in French and Haitian (a French-based creole) is sensitive to the post-R context: R only occurs pre-vocalically and before glides in Haitian, R is subject to deletion in word-final position in fast speech in French. The constraint rankings corresponding to these generalizations are pictured in (1a) and (1b) respectively.


a. Haitian: *R#, *RC > Max(C) > *RV, *RG

b. French: *R# > Max(C) > *RC, *RV, *RG

In this talk, we test the hypothesis that these rankings have a perceptual basis (see Russell Webb 2010). According to this hypothesis, R is deleted preferentially in contexts where it is less perceptible. We present the results of a perception experiment with French speakers testing whether R is more perceptible pre-vocalically than pre-consonantally (see *RC > Max(C) > *RV in Haitian) and pre-consonantally than word-finally (see *R# > Max(C) > *RC in French).