The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Phonology Circle 9/18 - Suyeon Yun (UToronto)

Speaker: Suyeon Yun (University of Toronto)
Title: Allophonic variation of the word-initial liquid in Korean dialects
Date and time: Monday, September 18, 5:00-6:30pm
Location: 32-D831

This study presents large-scale production data of the word-initial liquid allophones in North and South Korean dialects. In South Korean dialects, liquids cannot occur in word-initial position, and Sino-Korean word-initial liquids undergo deletion (e.g., /Lipjəl/ → [ipjəl] ‘parting’) or nasalization (e.g., /Lotoŋ/ → [notoŋ] ‘labor; Iverson & Kim 1987, a.o.). It is reported, however, that the initial liquid /l/ or /r/ in recent English loanwords may be realized as [ɾ] (e.g., Lee 1999) or as [l] (Seo 2004). On the other hand, in North Korean dialects, word-initial liquids are retained (e.g., Bae 2011) albeit based on a small number of Sino-Korean words. This study examines the allophonic variation of the word-initial liquid in North Korean as well as in South Korean, involving a considerable number of words, both Sino-Korean and loanwords, and participants that consist of different age groups. 35 speakers of North Korean defectors who speak Northern Hamkyeong dialect and 20 speakers of Seoul Korean read 41 /L/-initial words in isolation. Results show that the most common variant of the word-initial liquid is the tap [ɾ], and there are also several conditioned and free allophonic realizations, including the trill [r], approximant [ɹ], lateral [l], nasal [n], and stop [t]. The current data serve as an interesting case of variation, in which one phonemic liquid /L/ shows a lot of variability in its phonetic realizations as a result of the interactions between universal phonological constraints (rhotics occur less frequently and stops occur more frequently before /i/ than before other vowels (cf. Hall & Hamann 2010)), different lexical stratifications ([n] occurs more frequently in Sino-Korean than other loans), and speakers’ exposure to L2 ([r] occurs more frequently for Russian L2 speakers and [l] occurs more frequently for English L2 speakers).