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Lecture | LUCL Colloquium - Lunch Series '23/'24

Wherefore Phonology?

Thursday 15 February 2024
LUCL Colloquium - Lunch Series '23/'24
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden


Human speech is variable, and it is difficult, if not impossible, for the same word to be uttered twice by any individual in an identical fashion. Contextual variation is also the norm which causes great difficulty for the listener. Variability occurs on all levels — segmental, metrical as well as tonal. Critical sources of variation range from differences in vocal tract sizes, regular phonological alternation followed by the attrition of phonological contexts of regular rules and of course loans, leading to the maximal modification of reanalysis.

However, the phrase 'not everything goes' is applicable to phonological and morpho-phonological variation, observable both in synchronic systems and in language change. The level of variation as well as change, we will claim, is severely constrained. I have focused on the extent to which the phonological system of the native speaker plays an active role in language processing and lexical access and of course in language change. Phonological representations include contrasts in terms of features (e.g. [HIGH] vs [LOW]) or quantity (e.g., geminate/long vs. singleton/short consonants). Along with segmental features and quantity, metrical feet govern the assignment of stress. We will discuss ways in which phonological structure governs processing for native and non-native speakers.

Evidence that the native system plays a constraining influence comes from detailed examination of texts and poetry from Germanic languages (Dutch, English, German, Norwegian, Swedish) and Bengali. Experimental evidence will come from Bengali, English, German and Mandarin. Furthermore, we will discuss phonological nonesuches (segmental, quantity and tonal) which could perhaps change statistical preferences but at each stage the phonological grammar has a restrictive effect.


You can register via this form. The deadline for registration is wednesday the 14th of February. 

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