The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Phonology Circle 2/20 - Erin Olson presents Zuraw & Hayes (2017)

In this week’s meeting of Phonology Circle, we will discuss Zuraw & Hayes’s 2017 paper: “Intersecting constraint families: an argument for Harmonic Grammar”. Erin Olson will lead the discussion. The details follow:

Discussion leader: Erin Olson (MIT)
Paper: Zuraw, K., & Hayes, B. (2017). Intersecting constraint families: an argument for Harmonic Grammar. Language, 93(3), 497-548 (available here).
Time: Wednesday 02/20, 5:00pm-6:30pm
Location: 32-D831


In the analysis of free variation in phonology, we often encounter the effects of intersecting constraint families: there are two independent families of constraints, each of which has a quantifiable effect on the outcome. A challenge for theories is to account for the patterns that emerge from such intersection. We address three cases: Tagalog nasal substitution, French liaison/élision, and Hungarian vowel harmony, using corpus data. We analyze the data patterns created by intersecting families using several formal frameworks, and find that an accurate account is best based on Harmonic Grammar (in one of its two primary quantitative implementations). Our work also suggests that that certain lexical distinctions treated as discrete by classical phonological theory (e.g., “h aspiré” vs. ordinary vowel-initial words of French) are in fact gradient and require quantitative treatment.