Phonologization of redundant contrasts and the Contrastivist Hypothesis

May 9, 2014

Eighth North American Phonology Conference, Concordia University, Montréal, Canada

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Categories:  Welsh Ulster English Substance-free phonology Phonology-morphology interface Contrast in phonology

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I consider two cases of predictable distributions of phonological categories: ‘tense’ and ‘lax’ long vowels in South-West Welsh and the two varieties of the FACE vowel in Ulster English. Their predictable (‘non-phonemic’) distribution is a challenge to the Contrastivist Hypothesis, but I argue that it can be accommodated if we assume that learning, including category formation, proceeds bottom-up, and that learners do not unlearn predictably distributed categories unless compelled to do so by alternations. This forces even predictably distributed symbols into underlying representations, and the Contrastivist Hypothesis is not falsified. The bottom-up learning also predicts the possibility of ‘leaks’ (i.e. imperfect transmission of the conditions of the distribution), and the prediction appears correct in both cases considered here.



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I’m Pavel Iosad, and I'm a Lecturer in Theoretical Phonology in the department of Linguistics and English Language at the University of Edinburgh. ¶ You can always go to the start page to learn more.

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