Rutgers tenure-track position in phonology

The Department of Linguistics at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey (New Brunswick) invites applicants for a tenure‐track Assistant Professor position in linguistics with a specialization in phonology, beginning September 1, 2016. We seek applicants whose research interests complement those of the current faculty and who can contribute breadth and depth to the department with respect to research, teaching, and advising at the graduate and undergraduate levels.

Applicants must have completed all degree requirements for a Ph.D. in linguistics or a related field by August 31, 2016.

Applications should include a cover letter, a curriculum vitae, a research statement, sample publications, a teaching statement, teaching evaluations if available, and three letters of reference addressed to Linguistics Search Committee (address below). The cover letter should include a list of those writing letters of reference and a list of all the materials that have been, or will be, submitted. All materials should be submitted via Interfolio (link below).

Review of applications will begin November 1, 2015 and continue until the position is filled. For full consideration, applications should be submitted by November 15, 2015. Inquiries about the search should be sent to Ms. Marilyn Reyes (email below).

Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, is an Equal Opportunity / Affirmative Action Employer. Qualified applicants will be considered for employment without regard to race, creed, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, disability status, genetic information, protected veteran status, military service or any other category protected by law. As an institution, we value diversity of background and opinion, and prohibit discrimination or harassment on the basis of any legally protected class in the areas of hiring, recruitment, promotion, transfer, demotion, training, compensation, pay, fringe benefits, layoff, termination or any other terms and conditions of employment.

Application Address:

Linguistics Search Committee
Dept. of Linguistics, Rutgers University
18 Seminary Place
New Brunswick NJ

Application URL:

Contact Information:
Ms. Marilyn Reyes
Phone: 848-932-0477 Fax: 732-932-1370

OCP 11

[ Cribbed from LinguistList. ]


Leiden University Centre for Linguistics (LUCL), Meertens Instituut Amsterdam

22-25 JANUARY 2014

Deadline for abstracts: 15 September 2013
First call for papers: 29 April 2013
Second call for papers: 15 July 2013
Last call for papers: 1 September 2013
Notification of acceptance: 1 November 2013
Main conference: 23-25 January
Pre-conference workshop: 22 January

Invited speakers:
Adamantios I. Gafos (University of Potsdam)
Silke Hamann (University of Amsterdam)
Alan Prince (Rutgers University)

The Leiden University Centre for Linguistics (LUCL) and the Meertens Instituut Amsterdam are proud to announce that the eleventh Old World Conference in Phonology (OCP 11) will take place in Leiden and Amsterdam from 23 to 25 January 2014. It is organised by a group of local phonologists and follows in the line of previous OCP conferences, which have been held in Leiden, Tromsø, Budapest, Rhodes, Toulouse, Edinburgh, Nice, Marrakech, Berlin, and Istanbul. Abstracts for presentation as either talks or poster papers can be submitted on any phonological issue (theoretical or empirical).

The conference will be preceded by a workshop on the relationship between phonetics and phonology on 22 January. Everyone attending the conference is very welcome to attend the workshop, too.

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Phonology 2013

Phonology 2013 will be held November 8-10 on the campus of the University of Massachusetts Amherst. This is planned to be the first in an annual series of general phonology conferences, to be held at a different location each year.

We are seeking high quality unpublished research in all areas of phonology for presentation at Phonology 2013. In addition to the invited speakers, there will also be oral and poster presentations selected through abstract review. All oral presentations will be published in an online conference proceedings. Abstracts should be anonymous, and a maximum of 2 pages in 12 point font, figures and references included. They can be submitted at The deadline is midnight US EST, Wednesday July 1.

Invited Speakers:

John McCarthy, UMass Amherst
Sharon Peperkamp, LSCP Paris
Kevin Ryan, Harvard University

The research presentations will take place November 9-10. On November 8, we will hold a tutorial workshop on ‘Computational and Experimental Methods in Phonology’. The full schedule is TBA, but we are pleased to announce three of the tutorials now:

John Kingston, UMass Amherst ‘Octave/Matlab scripting for Psychtoolbox’
Lisa Sanders, UMass Amherst ‘ERP methods for phonology’
Brian Smith, UMass Amherst ‘Corpus phonology in R’

Laura Benua, 1962-2013

I’m very sad to report that Laura Benua has died, just over a week ago, at her home in Nyack, NY. She was just 50 years old. Laura received her PhD in Linguistics at UMass, under the direction of John McCarthy, in 1997. She held a faculty position in Linguistics at the University of Maryland for a few years, then left the field to become a teacher in NYC. A memorial page has been established here, by the funeral home where a service will be held tomorrow afternoon (Saturday, March 2).

Laura was part of the first cohort of students at UMass trained in Optimality Theory, a cohort that included John Alderete, Jill Beckman, Amalia Gnanadesikan, and Su Urbanczyk. Her dissertation, Transderivational Identity: Phonological Relations Between Words (available on ROA; also published in the Outstanding Dissertations in Linguistics series in 2000), was quite probably the most-cited of a range of works that appeared around the same time on the topic of phonology-morphology interleaving; this is saying a lot, given the very good company that Laura was in: Luigi Burzio, Sharon Inkelas, René Kager, Michael Kenstowicz, and Orhan Orgun were among the other authors with (also widely-cited) works on this topic. “Output-output faithfulness” is probably the most recognizable term referring to the main types of devices used in the relevant set of proposals; this is the term that Laura used in her work for the specific devices she used.

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2 jobs in Edinburgh

The department of Linguistics and English Language at the University of Edinburgh is seeking to appoint two lecturers: one in Theoretical Phonology and one in Sociolinguistics. (These are full-time, permanent positions, equivalent to Assistant Professor in the American system.)

The application deadline is in slightly less than one month. Please pass on the information to any potentially interested candidates and/or apply yourself.

Brief details follow below. For full details, go to the following website, click on ‘Academic vacancies’ and then search for Vacancy Reference 010983:

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New titles from Equinox Publishing

Equinox Publishing, Ltd are pleased to announce the publication of two new books in the Advances in Optimality Theory series.

Blocking and Complementarity in Phonological Theory by Eric Baković. Further details can be viewed and orders can be placed here.

Linguistic Derivations and Filtering: Minimalism and Optimality Theory edited by Hans Broekhuis and Ralf Vogel. Further details can be viewed and orders can be placed here.

The good folks at Equinox are happy to offer you 20% off the retail price of these books. Please quote the discount code BCPT when ordering from their website. This offer is valid until the end of March 2013.

Variation in the Acquisition of Sound Systems

Variation in the Acquisition of Sound Systems
Workshop at the Linguistic Institute 2013: Universality and Variability
University of Michigan
Friday, June 28, 2013

**Deadline for submissions: March 15th**

Co-sponsored by
New York University Department of Linguistics
Northwestern Department of Linguistics

Workshop website

What is the role of variability in how sound systems are acquired or changed? This workshop examines this topic from a number of different phonetic, phonological, and psycholinguistic perspectives, including child language acquisition, non-native production and perception, sound change, and phonotactic learning. The workshop will be held on one day, including invited 1 hour talks (see below) and a poster session.

**Call for poster submissions**
We invite submission of abstracts reporting computational, experimental, neurobiological, and grammar-based research on the role of variation in sound system acquisition and change.

Abstracts should be a one-page .pdf file, formatted at minimum 12-point single-spaced with 1 inch margins. Tables, graphs and references can be on a separate page. Abstracts must be submitted electronically to Deadline for submissions: March 15, 2013.

Accepted abstracts will be posted to the workshop website.

**Tentative Titles for Oral Presentations**
/Lisa Davidson (New York University)/: Signal variability and phonetic detail in the production of non-native phonotactics
/Matt Goldrick (Northwestern University):/ Abstraction and the acquisition of variable phonotactic patterns
/Bob McMurray (University of Iowa)/: Variability and the emergence of abstraction from basic learning principles: Evidence from early word learning and reading
/Katherine White (University of Waterloo)/: Coping with phonetic variation in early word recognition
/Alan Yu (University of Chicago)/: Cross-individual variation in speech perception and production

Lisa Davidson
Matt Goldrick

Note: Participants may also be interested in the workshop on “Universality and Variability: New Insights from Genetics” to be held the following weekend (June 29-30). See for more details.


French Phonology Network Meeting 2013 (RFP 2013)

CALL FOR PAPERS French Phonology Network Meeting 2013 (RFP 2013)

After the conferences organized in Orléans 2010, Tours 2011 and Paris 2012, the French Phonology Network (Réseau Français de Phonologie) is launching a call for papers for a new meeting in the same spirit that will take place in Nantes, France, from July, 1st to 3rd, 2013 thanks to the LLing (EA3827, Université de Nantes), FoReLL (Université de Poitiers) and MSH-Ange Guépin.

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CFP: 21 MFM (Twenty-First Manchester Phonology Meeting)


Twenty-First Manchester Phonology Meeting

23-25 MAY 2013

Deadline for abstracts: 31st January 2013

Special session: ‘Harmony in Phonology’, featuring:
* Andrew Nevins (University College London)
* Miklos Torkenczy (Eotvos Lorand University)
* Douglas Pulleyblank (University of British Columbia)
* Rachel Walker (University of Southern California)

Held at Hulme Hall, Manchester, England. Organised through a collaboration of phonologists at the University of Edinburgh, the University of Manchester, and elsewhere.

Conference website:

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Phonetics job at UC San Diego

Department of Linguistics
Assistant Professor

The Department of Linguistics ( within the Division of Social Sciences at the University of California, San Diego invites applications for a tenure-track faculty position in Phonetics at the level of Assistant Professor, beginning July 1, 2013. The department is committed to academic excellence and diversity within the faculty, staff and student body.

Qualifications: Candidates should have a strong and active research program in Phonetics, and must have a Ph.D. in Linguistics or a related field by the start of the appointment. Candidates should demonstrate evidence of research productivity, undergraduate and graduate teaching ability, and extramural funding potential. Candidates are encouraged to highlight how their research complements existing research on language at UC San Diego. The preferred candidate will have experience or a willingness to participate in teaching, mentoring, research or service towards building an equitable and diverse scholarly environment. In compliance with the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, individuals offered employment by the University of California will be required to verify identity and authorization to work in the United States.

Salary is commensurate with qualifications and based on University of California pay scales.

Please submit full application, including letters of recommendation by December 10, 2012.

Applications should be submitted to the UC San Diego on-line application collection system, AP-On-Line Recruit, at:

Applications must include a letter of application, a curriculum vitae, research and teaching statements and two representative publications. A separate statement describing past experience in activities that promote diversity and inclusion and/or plans to make future contributions should also be included. For further information about contributions to diversity statements, see and Candidates should also arrange for three letters of recommendation to be submitted via the on-line application system.

UCSD is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer with a strong institutional commitment to excellence through diversity.

the Rutgers Optimality Archive returns

Dear colleagues,

The Rutgers Optimality Archive (ROA) was taken offline last year after a hacking incursion. It was temporarily replaced with a simplified site and new submissions were accepted via email while the rebuild was going on. We’re pleased to announce that a new & improved version of ROA is up and ready to accept submissions directly via the web interface. The URL, as ever, is here:

All former URLs for articles and info pages have been redirected to the new site and are still valid. ROA now runs on a server maintained by the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University. We are grateful to the technical staff there for their generosity in hosting and maintaining a secure and stable site.

ROA is a distribution point for research in Optimality Theory and its conceptual affiliates. Posting in ROA is open to all who wish to disseminate their work in OT and related theories of grammar.

Access to content posted on ROA is completely open, but submission of new content to ROA requires an account. Current ROA authors should be able to log in as before, here:

New authors may register here:

Any questions should be directed to Eric Bakovic at


Eric Bakovic and Alan Prince
for the Rutgers Optimality Archive

The Phonology of Contrast

The Phonology of Contrast
by Anna Łubowicz
Advances in Optimality Theory series,
Equinox Publishing

The Phonology of Contrast argues that contrast is one of the central organizing principles of the grammar and provides a formal theory of contrast couched in the framework of Optimality Theory (Prince & Smolensky 1993/2004). The study of the role of contrast is a growing area of interest in linguistics and this monograph contributes to the debate on where contrast fits in the grammar. The key finding is that contrast exists as an independent principle in the grammar, which in the framework of Optimality Theory can be formulated as a family of rankable and violable constraints. A formal proposal of contrast is developed called Contrast Preservation Theory. This proposal is illustrated and supported with diverse contrast phenomena in the areas of phonology and at the phonology-morphology interface. Evidence is drawn from a number of languages including Finnish, Arabic, and Polish. Predictions of the proposal are discussed and compared with alternatives.

University of Delaware Workshop on Stress and Accent


UD Workshop on Stress and Accent

November 29 – December 1, 2012

Purpose and Background

The aim of this workshop is to bring together researchers and scholars interested in the nature of stress and accent in the world’s languages. In addition to an exciting set of invited talks by leading scholars, we are soliciting papers and posters that address any aspect of stress and accent. Abstracts should be submitted in pdf format via the EasyAbs system at the following URL:

Abstracts can be submitted between July 1, 2012 and August 3, 2012. Authors should remove identifying information from the abstract. Abstracts should be at most 1 page in length with at most an additional page for examples, references, diagrams, etc.

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LOGO Meertens

The Meertens Instituut is a research institute of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, focusing on research and documentation of Dutch language and culture. The Department of Variation Linguistics at the Meertens Institute offers a PhD position in phonology, as part of the programme “The Life Cycle of Liquids”, an internal research project at the Meertens Instituut. This programme studies different aspects of ongoing and past changes in the behaviour of the Dutch liquids /l/ and /r/, and does so in a perspective which combines phonological theory, sociolinguistics and phonetics or experimental linguistics. (A more complete description of the project can be found on the website.)

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A simple search utility

I made a small utility program meant to search for English words that have particular phonological properties. For example, you could use it to find words that have a long vowel followed by a coda obstruent. It’s not really all that powerful, but it’s flexible (you can make up your own natural classes) and I think it’s also very easy to use.

The phonological dictionary employed consists of all the words in the CMU database that have a CELEX frequency of at least one.

I used the program in a graduate course I just taught on English Phonology to retest the phonological generalizations proposed in the research literature on English.

Download here.  Windows only (sorry).

Bruce Hayes, UCLA

P.S. to commenters: surely there are other such programs available and I would be curious to know about them.

Tenure-track phonology position at UBC

The Department of Linguistics at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, invites applications for a tenure-track position in Phonology to begin July 1, 2012, with appointment at the rank of Assistant Professor.

The successful candidate should have a primary specialisation in Phonology. We especially encourage applicants with research expertise in linguistic fieldwork on less well-studied languages, especially indigenous languages of the Americas, or languages of Asia or Africa.

Candidates must have a Ph.D. in Linguistics or a closely related field and are expected to demonstrate a record of or potential for high-quality research and teaching of a variety of courses at the graduate and undergraduate levels. The successful candidate will be expected to maintain an active program of research, teaching (including graduate supervision), and service. The position is subject to final budgetary approval. Salary will be commensurate with qualifications and experience.

The Department of Linguistics at the University of British Columbia offers graduate degree programs in Linguistics and in Cognitive Systems (an interdisciplinary program involving several other departments) and undergraduate degree programs in Linguistics, Speech Science, First Nations Languages & Linguistics, and Cognitive Systems. Research in the department covers a broad range of subfields in linguistics, and approaches these from a variety of perspectives, with particular strengths in formal-theoretical linguistics, experimental and field linguistics, language acquisition, and computational approaches to the study of communicative behaviour. The department is a centre for the study of the indigenous languages of the Americas, with a particular focus on the First Nations languages of western Canada; there is also a long history of work on African languages. See the department website ( for further details.

Please send (electronically or by hardcopy) a letter of application, curriculum vitae, representative samples of published or unpublished work, evidence of teaching effectiveness, and any additional supporting documents to the address below by January 16, 2012. In addition, applicants should arrange for three confidential letters of recommendation to be sent separately by the same date (again, electronically or by hardcopy) to:

Douglas Pulleyblank
Chair, Search Committee
Department of Linguistics
Totem Field Studios
2613 West Mall
University of British Columbia
Vancouver, B.C. V6T 1Z4 Canada

Email: (with “Phonology Search” in the subject line)

UBC hires on the basis of merit and is committed to employment equity. All qualified persons are encouraged to apply. We especially welcome applications from members of visible minority groups, women, Aboriginal persons, persons with disabilities, persons of minority sexual orientations and gender identities, and others with the skills and knowledge to engage productively with diverse communities. Canadians and permanent residents of Canada will be given priority.

Vowel Synth

I received the following message from Ben Guo today and checked out his Vowel Synth app for iOS devices. It’s very cool, and only $.99! Ben also has slightly different free versions of the app for OSX and Windows here, but if you have an iOS device, buy the app and support a young coder!

Hi Eric,

I know very little about phonology or linguistics, but I thought you might be interested in this app, a formant-filter based vowel synthesizer for iOS devices with a GUI based on the F1-F2 vowel space.

If you like it or have suggestions for improvement, please let me know!

App Store:

about me: I’m an undergraduate student at Harvard University, and this was my final project for CS50. I’m studying Neurobiology, have done some work in cochlear implant research (NYU and JHU), code occasionally, and write/record/produce synth pop songs with a collection of synths that have taken over my dorm room. (the song at the end of the video is my latest).



Problem set solution problems (and solutions)

Several months ago a helpful colleague contacted me about phonology problem set solution files that I had stupidly left on a public course website for all of Google-land to see. I immediately removed the files, and now I just hope that copies of them are not lurking about the interwebs. I didn’t really appreciate the depth of my stupidity until a few students recently had the gall to write to me (and in one case to my Department’s webmaster) to ask where all the solutions had gone! Anyway, I hereby apologize profusely to everyone for any bad consequences (past or future, known or unknown) that my stupid mistake may have had.

But to try to make some lemonade from these lemons: this experience has had me thinking about ways in which we phonology instructors might take advantage of the interwebs in order to share problem sets and their solutions amongst ourselves. Any ideas out there for how best to implement something like that? Obviously, it would have to be secure and there would need to be a gatekeeping process for access, but ideally it won’t just involve everyone sending email to each other. A private wiki or blog? An open-source course management system? Something else? Comments are open.

Seventh North American Phonology Conference (NAPhC7)

The 7th North American Phonology Conference (NAPhC7) will be held
May 4-5, 2012 at Concordia University in Montreal. Invited speakers for NAPhC7 are

Gorka Elordieta, University of the Basque Country
Tobias Scheer, University of Nice
Ricardo Bermudez-Otero, University of Manchester
Mary Paster, Pomona College
Peter Jurgec, Meertens Institute

We welcome abstracts for talks of 40 minutes (including questions) on any aspect of generative phonology, including the interface of phonology (or lack thereof) with morphology, syntax, phonetics or semantics.

Abstract guidelines:

Deadline: February 1st, 2012
Format: pdf file
Length: 2-5 pages
Submission by email to
Anonymous abstract with following info in message:

Name and affiliation of author(s) (Alphabetically, in case of multiple authors)
Status of each author (student, post-doc, professor, etc)
Poster–YES/NO? Are you willing to present your research in a POSTER? (Your answer will not affect your chances of acceptance for a talk)

Results will be sent out before February 15th.

Further information will be made available at

Hoping to see you in Montreal,
Charles Reiss
On behalf of the organizing committee

ROA lives!

We’re very pleased to announce that the Rutgers Optimality Archive has put a temporary site that gives access to all files while Archive software is being more significantly upgraded and improved. The temporary site has the same URL as always ( and all file links are exactly as before. The site has full text search and a complete list of all titles and authors, linked to their files.

Until the new & improved Archive software is available, those wishing to post their work can send a PDF and relevant information (author(s), title, abstract, keywords, area(s)) to New posts will be given a temporary number and authors will be notified when the new software is fully functional.

Thanks for you patience as we work to give you a better, more stable ROA experience.


Conference on Word Stress

On December 3rd 2011 there will be a one-day conference on word stress at the University of Connecticut, organized by Harry van der Hulst and Jeff Heinz. Queries for information to Program will be announced.

[Update from Harry van der Hulst, 10/13: All speakers on the “UConn Stress Day” on december 3rd (University of Connecticut, Storss campus) will be invited speakers. However, for the occassion, we welcome poster presentations on the subject of word stress. Please send an abstract of the poster or requests for further information to Harry van der Hulst. A program with times and locations will be announced shortly. For those who wish to stay in the campus hotel, please go to for the Nathan Hale Inn. For ‘improvised accomodation’ for students, contact Beata Moskal.]

An Introduction to Element Theory

An Introduction to Element Theory
By Philip Backley

Describing a new and appealing way of analysing speech sounds, this book introduces you to the theory of elements in phonology.

Traditional features are capable of describing segments and segmental patterns, but they are often unable to explain why those patterns are the way they are. By using elements to represent segmental structure, we begin to understand why languages show such a strong preference for certain kinds of segments, contrasts, phonological processes and sound changes.

Using examples from a wide range of languages, this book demonstrates the process of analysing phonological data using elements, and gives readers the opportunity to compare element-based and feature-based accounts of the same phonological patterns. Backley also challenges traditional views through his innovative analysis of English weak vowels and diphthongs and his unified treatment of linking r and intrusive r as glide formation processes.

Providing a thorough introduction to the main topics in segmental phonology, this is an excellent overview for both students with a background in standard phonology as well as for those who are new to the field.

Key Features
· Provides a full and up-to-date description of Element Theory
· Includes examples from many languages and various dialects of English
· Further reading suggested for each topic
· Contains over 100 illustrations, including spectral and spectrographic figures

Pb ISBN 978 0 7486 3743 0 | £24.99
Available from Edinburgh University Press

Phonology position @ McGill

[Version française ci-dessous]

Department of Linguistics
McGill University


The Department of Linguistics, McGill University, invites applications for a tenure-track position in phonology at the rank of Assistant Professor, effective August 1st, 2012. Applicants should have a research agenda that complements the existing strengths of the Department. General qualifications are a PhD in linguistics and demonstrated excellence in research and teaching in the area(s) of specialization. Duties will include undergraduate and graduate teaching, graduate research guidance and administrative responsibilities.

Salary: McGill scale.

Deadline for applications: October 31, 2011.

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Meet, match, fit — what’s your poison?

I’ve been working a lot on stuff that requires me to write about strings that “X the structural description of” some rule, and in going back over what I’ve written I find that I alternate among three values of X: meet, match, and (much less often) fit. I’m most used to meet, but on some days I prefer match; Google fits my profile, with about 10 times as many hits for “meets the structural description of” than for “matches the structural description of” (though I haven’t expanded the search for other variations of the relevant lemmas and possible phrasings). What do you prefer to use, and why? I’d be curious to see. In the meantime, I’m changing all of my “match”-es to “meet”-s. Ah, consistency.

ROA is temporarily down

The Rutgers Optimality Archive has been taken offline, temporarily, to investigate an apparent attempt to hack our interface. The extent of the damage thus far appears to be minimal, and we want to keep it that way. We apologize for the inconvenience, and I will notify the list when there is a further development — when we bring ROA back online, I hope.

Optimality Theory as a General Cognitive Architecture

( News: preliminary program is available on the website: )

( If you can’t make it to Boston, but you are interested in the topic: please read the last paragraph )

2nd Call for Participation and Call for Posters:

Optimality Theory as a General Cognitive Architecture
Workshop held at the 33rd annual meeting of the Cognitive Science Society
July 20, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts

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Menn and Matthei (1992) The “two-lexicon” account of child phonology (Part 2)

In the previous post, I described Menn and Matthei’s assessment of progress on the two-lexicon model. They highlight several advantages of the model, but also note problems, including the apparent competition between children’s “selection rules” (or rules specific to the output lexicon), as well as non-deterministic cross-word patterns. To combat these and other problems, MM suggest that the formalism of the two-lexicon model migrate from a generative perspective to a more connectionist one. At this point, they make a very handy list of the key generalizations they would like to capture with a revised, connectionist two-lexicon model, or with any model of child speech production for that matter. I have restated them here, while keeping MM’s original groupings.

Reduction of Information

  1. Children recognize more words than they can say
  2. Children recognize more phonemic contrasts than they can realize in speech
  3. Early productions tend to cluster together in terms of phonetic properties
  4. Early productions also tend to contain a limited set of phonetic elements


  1. Children’s productions appear to be simplified (compared to adult forms) and often appear systematic (many words share a pattern)

Inertia of the System

  1. Early, frequently produced words may retain a high level of fidelity, resulting in “phonological idioms” compared to more recently acquired production forms
  2. Changes in systematic productions tend to happen to newly acquired words; more established words are more resistant to change

We could also add to this list MM’s frequent observation that imitated production forms tend to be much more like adult forms.

To provide a general feel for a connectionist model of early speech production, MM lay out the “initial settings” for such a model. With respect to connections, MM posit simultaneous and sequential connections. Simultaneous connections link the speech modalities of motor commands, auditory percepts, and kinesthetic sensation (of one’s own productions). The three modalities, motor/auditory/kinesthetic or MAK, must be wired together efficiently by learning. Sequential connections are within-modality connections that represent change over time. So, a simultaneous connection might link together the feeling, action plan, and acoustic record of a [b], while sequential acoustic connections might link together the [b] burst to the following formants of an [a] vowel in the syllable [ba]. Although MM do not make this explicit, it appears that sequences of connections also represent stored forms, or words.

Next, MM lay out a series of what I will call linking mechanisms. First, sequential auditory patterns can be stored and learned by attention to adult speech. Second, there is an internal feedback loop, which MM relate to babbling, which has a basic predictive property that allows the model to guess how a sequential motor pattern might sound and thereby modify it to observe whether the result is the same or different (essentially a supervised learning component provided by the stored, “correct” adult forms). Third, imitation will result in links between stored adult-produced auditory sequences and the child’s own MAK sequences. Fourth, stored adult sequences will be associated with real-word states (meanings), which then leads associations between the child’s own MAK sequences and real-world states.

MM give a fair amount of attention to the idea that adults might assist in the development of a child’s MAK sequences. The basic idea is that an adult mimics the phonetic properties of a child’s utterance (absolute pitch, formant values, etc.). Here’s an explanatory quote: “A purely sound-based imitation of the child by the adult…will produce links between the child’s internal MAK associations and the sound of the adult’s voice, the child’s innate normalization abilities should be enhanced.”

Once normalization is established (although I’m not sure why it needs to be established first in this proposal), the child might seek to produce words in a more adult-like fashion. MM propose that social factors like semantically contingent responding by parents (Snow, 1977) could provide such a mechanism. MM conclude by saying that their connectionist model is not fully developed, and that many attractive qualities of the old two-lexicon model, like the selection rules, have been replaced by vaguer concepts. However, they believe that the absolute boundaries of the input and output lexicons in the original model simply do not serve us, and we should abandon them.

My primary concern with the connectionist model that MM propose is that it seems to completely abandon the original problem that the two-lexicon model addresses. Looking back at their list of key generalizations, I would single out two, but the connectionist model does not clearly address either. First, how is it that children can recognize more words/sounds than they can produce? Second, why are children’s early productions both simplified and systematic?

It’s difficult to see how the proposed connectionist model makes headway on these problems. In fact, it seems as if they have been replaced with several other problems in the study of child speech. The discussion of speech normalization is a perfect example. Given general agreement that toddlers have a good understanding of the perceptual form of their native language, this problem could be assumed to be solved at the time that production begins. For example, I know of no evidence that children ever attempt to imitate the absolute values of any acoustic property of adult forms, which seems to be a major problem if we want to address normalization.

To conclude, I generally see the box-and-arrow iteration of the two-lexicon model as being preferable, if only for specificity. Athough I agree with MM that the box-and-arrow model could be replaced advantageously by a connectionist model, the advantages are simply not clear enough here. In the future, I will present a more recent attempt at a connectionist network by Menn and colleagues, which may address the perception-production disparity more directly.



Snow, C. E. (1977). The development of conversation between mothers And babies. Journal of Child Language, 4, 1-13.

Menn and Matthei (1992) The “two-lexicon” account of child phonology (Part 1)

Menn and Matthei (hereafter MM) begin with some information about the historical development of the two-lexicon model. They quote a paper by Ferguson, Peizer, and Weeks (1973), who noted a general human tendency to know more words than are typically said. That is, both children and adults know words that they rarely or never say. Thus, there seems to be a set of lexical representations for which the details of production are either murky or nonexistent, and we might hypothesize a split between input and output representations (Ingram, 1974), in other words, two separate lexicons.

So long as there is a consistency in children’s pronunciations, however, separate lexicons are unnecessary. If there is a regular mapping between the input representation (presumed to be identical to the adult forms) and the output representation, then a set of rewrite rules that capture the mapping are sufficient, and no output lexicon is needed. However, children are rarely consistent, and MM provide the example of two words (“down” and “stone”) that move in and out of a nasal harmony rule: They start out with no harmony ([dawn] and [don], resp.); the harmony rule then applies to other words (/binz/ –> [minz] and /dæns/ –> [næns]); finally, the harmony rule overtakes “down” and “stone”. With inconsistent mapping across similar words, rewrite rules are not helpful, or at least require arbitrary exceptions. Granted, two-lexicon models must also have lexical exceptions, but there are other advantages.

One of these advantages is that arbitrary exceptions in a one-lexicon system lead to more serious problems. The example is from Smith (1973) as interpreted by Macken (1980). The data comes from the child, Amahl, who displayed a pattern of velar harmony (/tr^k/ –> [kr^k]). Eventually, the pattern gave way to accurate production of alveolars, but one word, “took”, persisted as a regressive idiom, [gUk].

Macken assumes that this is possible because Amahl must have learned /gUk/ as the underlying form. Thus, when the harmony rule disappeared, /gUk/ would still surface as if harmony applied. As MM point out, however, this assumes that the child perceives “took” as /gUk/, which would lead us to expect that Amahl would not understand “took” as produced correctly. This seems highly unlikely, especially given our present-day understanding of children’s perceptual abilities. Furthermore, the example above with “down” and “stone” resisting a nasal harmony rule does not make sense if we assume exceptions are cases where the child has learned his own productions as underlying forms. At the very least, it would suggest that the underlying forms of words where nasal harmony does apply are perceived as if they had initial nasals. That defeats the advantage of the one-lexicon model, however, where we assume child and adult underlying forms are the same.

An output lexicon is helpful in this case because it provides a space for pronunciation representations that may be linked by a rule that operates across words or by arbitrary connections between input and output forms. Just as importantly, the output lexicon still allows children to be able to accurately perceive those words. That is, the output lexicon provides a storage facility for consistent or variable output representations while allowing for stable and accurate perception.

Despite the advantages, MM detail several problems they see with the two-lexicon model. First, it appears that selection rules—or the rules that lead to childlike forms in the output lexicon—sometimes operate over two words. This is problematic, however, if we take up the very standard assumption that combining words is done by the syntax and word combinations do not exist in the lexicon.

Another problem is that selection rules may sometimes be in competition with one another for a given word. MM give the example of productions by the child Daniel (also discussed by Menn in previous papers, I believe) of “boot” and “boat”, which are variably produced as [bup-dut] and [bop-dot] respectively. Thus, there appear to be separate labial harmony and alveolar harmony rules that compete in terms of realization of the same word. MM point out that there isn’t any sort of formalism in the two-lexicon model that allows for rule competition.

Other problems are given through the examination of daily changes in a couple of diary studies. For example, a child Jacob exhibited something like a vowel convergence, where [i] was produced like [ε]. So “tea” is first produced as [di] and then as [dεi]. “Key” was produced first as [ki], then as [xiε], and finally as [xε]. At the same time words with a mid front vowel switched between a low and high specification: “tape” was produced with both [i] and [e]. Ultimately, MM conclude that these similar words must be influencing each other in terms of production, but in a very unruly way. Similar cases are given for stress placement on two-syllables words beginning with [k] and over-application of the plural/3rd singular/possessive morpheme.

I’ll stop here for now. My next post will summarize what MM want to explain and then review the connectionist model that MM propose as a revised two-lexicon system.



Ferguson, C. A., Peizer, D. B., & Weeks, T. A. (1973). Model-and-replica phonological grammar of a child’s first words. Lingua, 31, 35-65.

Ingram, D. (1974). Phonological rules in young children. Journal of Child Language, 1, 49-64.

Macken, M. A. (1980). The child’s lexical representation: The ‘puzzle-puddle-pickle’ evidence. Journal of Linguistics, 16, 1-17.

Smith, N. V. (1973). The Acquisition of Phonology: A Case Study. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

CfP: Information-Theoretic Approaches to Linguistics

Information-Theoretic Approaches to Linguistics

Date: 16-Jul-2011 – 17-Jul-2011
Location: Boulder, CO, USA
Contact: Kathleen Hall, Beth Hume, Rory Turnbull
Contact Email:
Meeting URL:

Call for Posters:
A wide range of research has shown that tools from information theory (e.g. information content/surprisal, entropy) are useful tools in addressing questions of linguistic interest. These range from predicting the targets and outcomes of phonological and syntactic processes, to explaining the cognitive bases for these processes, to evaluating models of linguistic data. A two-day NSF-funded workshop will bring together a number of researchers working on information-theoretic approaches to linguistics in an effort to share knowledge, tools, insights, and specific research findings. There will also be a tutorial on information theory for those not familiar with the approach. The tutorial will be followed by invited talks and a poster session.

The workshop is being held at the University of Colorado at Boulder, in conjunction with the Linguistic Society of America’s Summer Linguistics Institute 2011.

We invite abstracts for posters related to the workshop theme. Both theoretical and experimental work integrating insights and tools from  information theory (Shannon 1948) in any subfield of linguistics or related disciplines are welcome. Submissions are limited to 1 single-authored paper and 1 joint-authored paper per person.

One page abstracts (including author(s) name(s), affiliation, references and data/figures) should be submitted to in .pdf format.

Submission deadline (extended): Sunday, May 15, 2011
Notification of Acceptance: Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Registration Information:

There is no registration fee for the workshop but we would appreciate having people pre-register in order to help with planning. Please do so no later than July 1, 2011 by emailing with your name and affiliation.

Invited Speakers:

Petar Milin, University of Novi Sad, Serbia
John Goldsmith, University of Chicago
John Hale, Cornell University
Kathleen Currie Hall, CUNY: College of Staten Island & The Graduate Center
Elizabeth Hume, The Ohio State University
Florian Jaeger, University of Rochester
Roger Levy, UC San Diego
Fred Mailhot, The Ohio State University
Jason Riggle, University of Chicago
Andrea Sims, The Ohio State University
Rory Turnbull, The Ohio State University
Adam Ussishkin, University of Arizona
Andrew Wedel, University of Arizona

N. Hewlett (1990) Processes of development and production (Part 2)

Hewlett begins discussion of dual lexicon models with basic premise that, if children have accurate perception but inaccurate production, then “there is not just a single, modality-independent lexicon in which phonological representations are stored.” (p. 28) Hewlett lists several advantages to this basic framework. First, lexical avoidance (Schwartz & Leonard, 1982) is easily explained. Second, the “rules” like fronting and gliding that apply to child speech do not need to occur in real time. In many ways, this is helpful for explaining why the rules apply to environments, rather than to particular words. Exceptions abound, however! These exceptions include regressive idioms, where a child produces a word incorrectly even though similar words are generally produced correctly; and progressive idioms, where a child produces one word correctly when similar words are produced incorrectly. The problem with idioms is where Hewlett strikes out on his own, proposing a revised dual lexicon model.

It seems likely that reproducing the box-and-arrow model from the chapter would be a violation of copyright, so I will do my best to provide verbal descriptions for now. There are four four key boxes in the model (clockwise from upper left): the input lexicon, the output lexicon, a motor processor, and a motor programmer. The input lexicon is where incoming acoustic signals are matched to stored lexical items. Hewlett states explicitly that, “The input lexicon contains perceptual representations in terms of auditory-perceptual features.”

Realization rules link the input lexicon to the output lexicon, which contains articulatory representations. From there, an articulatory representation can be sent to the motor processor, where a motor plan is assembled using syllabic units. There is an alternative route, however, going through the motor programmer. If a realization rule does not exist, or if there is cause to eschew the realization rule, then the perceptual representation is sent to the motor programmer, where a motor representations is built from scratch. From there, it can either go directly to the motor processing component for implementation, or it can go to the output lexicon for storage, or probably both. Additional levels of production mechanism follow motor processing, including a segmental level of motor processing (which is acquired after the onset of speech), a motor execution level where muscle contractions are planned, and finally the signal sent to the vocal tract, representing the actual articulations.

How well does Hewlett’s model handle the data discussed in my last post? First, lexical avoidance is explained by postulating an entry in the input lexicon that has no corresponding motor plan (Hewlett is unclear here, but I think he means there is no corresponding entry in the output lexicon). Realization rules in which sound contrasts are neutralized (fronting, gliding, etc.) are the result of multiple input lexicon entries being mapped to the same output entry. Improvement in speech accuracy over time is handled by various forms of feedback, including the revision of output lexicon forms by passing input forms through the motor programmer.

There are many positive aspects of Hewlett’s model, and it does improve on the model proposed by Kiparsky and Menn (1977). However, the empirical coverage of the model is still quite limited. Here are a few examples. First, although Hewlett is careful to point out how important phonology is for explaining paradigmatic phonological rules, his model does not include a robust phonological grammar. The input and output lexicons are connected by an arrow, but this obscures what a difficult relationship this must be. How, for example, are output lexical items merged when they remain distinct in the input lexicon (e.g., when the words ‘rock’ and ‘walk’ are pronounced identically, or when /r/ and /w/ are pronounced identically, in general)? What mechanism is responsible for the merger? Notice that previous generative approaches are not helpful here because part of the challenge is to show how the input lexicon–including words like ‘rock’ and ‘walk’–links to the output lexicon–where ‘rock’ and ‘walk’ become merged. Grammars which do not split the lexicon into input and output components are therefore shielded from this problem. Progressive and regressive idioms are also unexplained by the single arrow between the input and output lexicons. The model has no way of explaining why some words might not follow an otherwise consistent grammatical pattern.

Second, how do articulatory representations develop? Consider who a child comes to produce their first word. Based on Hewlett’s model, we can reasonably assume that the child has an accurate perceptual representation of the word in their input lexicon. How is that word then matched up to any motor representation. Presumably, babbling plays some role in the developmental process, but this is not discussed outside of input from the motor programmer. We might look to work by Guenther to solve this problem (e.g., Guenther, 2006), but Hewlett leaves the process unspecified.

Finally, Lise Menn consistently mentions the important of explaining why speech accuracy improves during imitation, but Hewlett’s model is not specific enough to account for this fact.

Overall, Hewlett’s chapter provides an outstanding review of much of the work on child speech production and phonology up to 1990. His model offers several advances compared to similar models proposed by Menn (Kiparsky & Menn, 1977; Menn, 1983), but many facts about speech development remain unexplained.

The Blackwell Companion to Phonology

Fearless editors Marc van Oostendorp, Colin J. Ewen, Elizabeth Hume, and Keren Rice — not to mention the 138 contributors of the 124 chapters — have completed the mammoth Blackwell Companion to Phonology and it is now available for purchase by libraries.

The reviews are in, the contents sorted, the faqs answered — and some sample chapters posted: Andrew Wedel on “Self-organization in Phonology“, B. Elan Dresher on “The Phoneme“, Ronnie Wilbur on “Sign Syllables“, Michael Becker and Kathryn Flack Potts on “The Emergence of the Unmarked“, Nancy Hall on “Vowel Epenthesis“, and Carlos Gussenhoven on “Sentential Prominence in English“. Check these freebies out.

Here’s more from the Companion‘s about page:

Available online or as a five-volume print set, The Blackwell Companion to Phonology is a major reference work drawing together 124 new contributions from leading scholars in the field. Led by a renowned team of international scholars, the Companion represents a diverse range of approaches and methodologies to the key phenomena in phonological research. In contrast to other handbooks and reference works currently available for phonology, the Companion focuses on phenomena and case studies to highlight historical and ongoing debates in the field. The Companion will be a touchstone for future phonological theorists, giving an overview of all the data and insights which any good theory of phonology should be able to cover.

The online platform provides audio files and links to external web content, as well as interactive cross-referencing and powerful searching and browsing capabilities. Simultaneously offering broad coverage and a high level of detail, The Blackwell Companion to Phonology is a landmark work that will be indispensable to students and researchers in the field for years to come.

Volume I: General Issues and Segmental Phonology
Volume II: Suprasegmental and Prosodic Phonology
Volume III: Phonological Processes
Volume IV: Phonological Interfaces
Volume V: Phonology Across Languages

Two-year visiting position, University of Michigan

The Department of Linguistics at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, invites applications for a two-year position, beginning September 1, 2011. We seek outstanding applicants who have a Ph.D. in Linguistics with a specialization in any of the foundational areas, especially phonology. Candidates with expertise in experimentation, computation, and/or endangered languages are strongly encouraged to apply. The position, partially endowed by the journal Language Learning, involves half-time teaching responsibilities (2 courses per year) and half-time research.

A letter of application, a curriculum vitae, research and teaching statements, one or more representative publications or other writings, and evidence of teaching excellence should be sent to the address below. Please also arrange for three letters of recommendation to be sent. Review of dossiers will begin on March 28, 2011, and will continue until the position is filled. Email queries can be sent to Prof. Sarah Thomason, Chair, Linguistics.

Women and minorities are encouraged to apply. The University of Michigan is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and is supportive of the needs of dual-career couples.

Application deadline: March 28, 2011.

Mailing address for applications: electronic —;
snailmail — LL Search, Department of Linguistics, 440 Lorch Hall, 611
Tappan St., University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1220.

Contact information: Sarah Thomason:; 734-764-0353
(phone), 734-936-3406 (fax).

N. Hewlett (1990) Processes of development and production (Part 1)

I’m following up on my review of Kiparsky and Menn (1977) with a review of Hewlett (1990), which extends the dual-lexicon model in several interesting ways, including a more detailed production component and an updated literature review. Unfortunately, the chapter is so long that it doesn’t really seem appropriate to review it all at once. In fact, this post will probably be too long. If you’d prefer shorter posts, let me know!



Hewlett reviews major findings in normal and disordered phonological/speech development, with the goal of motivating a model of early speech production building on previous work [1, 2]. The coverage in the manuscript is extensive, and the criticism is often very insightful. Below is a short description of the findings that Hewlett covers.

Hewlett begins his review with very early speech development, including babbling.* Babbled sounds are typically the same sounds in early words, and babbling usually overlaps with the first real word productions [3]. Relevant work not discussed by Hewlett include research from Boysson-Bardies and colleagues showing that babbling sounds are language dependent and even sounds that are common in babbling around the world often have language-specific phonetic characteristics [4, 5].

When word production begins in earnest, Hewlett argues that certain aspects of early speech are consistent. First, early ‘proto-words’ [6] are highly variable in their form. Thus, although the child’s production goal might be consistent—for example, they are always referring to ‘milk’—the form is entirely inconsistent. Second, early words are generally single words or unanalyzed phrases (the parts of the phrase don’t recombine).

Hewlett argues that a separate stage can be identified around 1;6 (years; months), which roughly corresponds to what is often called the ‘word spurt’. Hewlett further elaborates on phonological systematicity during early word production. Young children apply systematic patterns to their speech. These patterns might include consonant cluster reduction (‘snow’ is pronounced [no]), or application of a child-language-specific rewrite rule (/r/ à [w] word-initially and word-medially), or application of a prosodic template, such as a [CVjVC] template [7]. Hewlett writes, “The important implication of this is that the child’s pronunciation patterns exhibit regularities which yield to a systematic description within a phonological framework.” (p. 19) Thus, the enterprise of child phonology has been either to 1) describe the child’s phonological inventory, including contrasts and phonotactic restrictions, or 2) write rules that describe how children get from the adult form, which children are presumed to know based on their perceptual abilities. I will not go into great detail about these proposals, but Hewlett reviews well-known rules such as /r/ à [w]. Finally, although Hewlett discusses the issue later in the paper, this stage of phonological development includes many examples of ‘lexical avoidance’, or cases in which children avoid words with particular sounds [8].

At this point, Hewlett reviews models of phonological development, including proposals by Jakobson [9], Stampe [10], and Menn ([2]; the dual-lexicon model, also described in [1], which I reviewed in a previous posting). He then goes on to describe children’s perceptual abilities, which are generally agreed on to be quite good. And, of course, the explosion of the infant literature starting in the early 1990s confirms that infants are very good at learning linguistic/phonological patterns before they begin to speak.

As a sort of contrasting section to `phonological development’ as described above, Hewlett reviews `phonetic development’, in which he focuses on the measurement of speech production. Several findings are noteworthy. First, children’s speech is known to be more variable, including long durations for linguistic targets and greater variability. Regarding variability, recent work by my current mentor Lisa Goffman, and her collaborations with her mentor Anne Smith, have greatly added to our understanding of speech motor variability in children. Some examples: [11] showed that oral-motor stability is below adult levels even at 14 years of age. [12] showed that, contrary to what one might expect from a frequency-based explanation, native English speaking children and adults produce iambs with more stability compared to trochees.

Continuing with Hewlett’s discussion of phonetic development, children’s formants tend to be more variable than adult’s formants [13]. Hewlett discusses the issue of whether children show more or less coarticuation than adults. A number of researchers, Susan Nittrouer being one example [14], have claimed that children actually show greater amounts of coarticulation. The implication is that children have less segmentalized speech, and therefore their early speech consists of unanalyzed whole words. This claim has been hotly debated (or was hotly debated 20 years ago), but it appears that coarticulation is often just different in children [15], without there being either more or less coarticulation in child speech.

Hewlett also discusses the issue of `covert contrasts’ or `incomplete neutralization’—cases where children appear to be producing two sounds the same but are actually producing them distinctly. For example, both /r/ and /w/ might be realized as something like a [w], but in fact, the productions are distinct, and children can reliably identify which word they intended from their own productions [16]. Elsewhere, I have argued that this is a systemic problem with analyses of child phonology. Because so much of the literature on `phonological processes’ in child speech is based on transcription data, it is unclear whether these cases reflect phonological processes or covert contrasts (in which case, `phonological’ must mean something entirely different than what it is usually taken to mean).

Hewlett concludes his review of phonetic development with three findings. First, sounds that appear in babbling may disappear from a child’s sound inventory after the onset of word production. Second, although adults are very good at compensating for a bite block and hitting acoustic targets, children may be less good at this [17]. Third, Hewlett notes that children seem readily able to acquire a foreign accent as well as a foreign language (although some more recent work [18] suggests that accent acquisition generally falls on a continuum based on age of acquisition). Regarding the last two findings, Hewlett concludes that children must be better than adults at learning to produce new sounds.


[1] Kiparsky, P. & Menn, L. (1977). On the acquisition of phonology. In Language Learning and Thought, J. Macnamara (Ed.). New York: Academic Press.

[2] Menn, L. (1983). Development of articulatory, phonetic, and phonological capabilities In Language Production, Vol II, B Butterworth (Ed.). London: Academic Press

[3] Locke, J. L. (1983). Phonological Acquisition and Change. New York: Academic Press.

[4] Boysson-Bardies, B. d., Halle, P., Sagart, L., & Durand, C. (1989). A crosslinguistic investigation of vowel formants in babbling. Journal of Child Language, 16(1), 1-17.

[5] Boysson-Bardies, B. d., & Vihman, M. M. (1991). Adaptation to language: Evidence from babbling and first words in four languages. Language, 67(2), 297-319.

[6] Menyuk P. & Menn, L. (1979). Early strategies for the perception and production of words and sounds. In Language Acquisition, P. Fletcher, M. Garman (Eds.). Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. pp. 49-70.

[7] Priestly, T. M. S. (1977). One idiosyncratic strategy in the acquisition of phonology. Journal of Child Language, 4, 45-66.

[8] Schwartz, R. G., & Leonard, L. B. (1982). Do children pick and choose? An examination of phonological selection and avoidance in early lexical acquisition. Journal of Child Language, 9, 319-336.

[9] Jakobson, R. (1968). Child Language, Aphasia and Phonological Universals. The Hague: Mouton.

[10] Stampe, D. (1969). The acquisition of phonetic representation. Papers from the 5th Rebional Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society, 443-454.

[11] Smith, A. & Zelaznik, H. (2004) Development of functional synergies for speech motor coordination in childhood and adolescence. Developmental Psychobiology, 45, 22-33.

[12] Goffman, L. (1999). Prosodic influences on speech production in children with specific language impairment and speech deficits: Kinematic, transcription, and acoustic evidence. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 42, 1499-1517.

[13] Eguchi, S. & Hirsch, I. (1969). Development of speech sounds in children. Acta Otolaryngology Supplement, 257.

[14] Nittrouer, S., Studdert-Kennedy, M., & McGowan, R. S. (1989). The emergence of phonetic segments: Evidence from the spectral structure of fricative-vowel syllables spoken by children and adults. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 32, 120-132.

[15] Goodell, E. W. & Studdert-Kennedy, M. (1993). Acoustic evidence for the development of gestural coordination in the speech of 2-year-olds: A longitudinal study. Journal of Speech and Hearing Research, 36, 707-727.

[16] Kornfeld, J. R., & Goehl. (1974). A new twist to an old observation: Kids know more than they say. Chicago, IL: Chicago Linguistic Society.

[17] Oller, D. K. & MacNeilage, P. F. (1983). Development of speech production: Perspectives from natural and perturbed speech. In The Production of Speeech, P. F. MacNeilage (Ed.). New York: Springer Verlag, pp. 91-108.

[18] Flege, J. E., Munro, M. J. & MacKay, I. (1995). Factors affecting degree of perceived foreign accent in a second language, Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 97, 3125-3134.

Workshop announcement and call for posters: Testing Models of Phonetics and Phonology

Workshop announcement and call for posters
Testing Models of Phonetics and Phonology
Workshop at the Linguistic Institute 2011: Language in the World
University of Colorado at Boulder
Wednesday, July 13th, 2011

Co-sponsored by
Northwestern Department of Linguistics
Stanford Department of Linguistics
National Science Foundation

Workshop website

This single day workshop aims to build connections between computational, experimental, and grammar-based research on phonetics and phonology. Studies using each of these general methodologies often have similar goals and produce mutually informing results, but they are usually presented in distinct journals and conferences, creating a barrier to their integration. The workshop brings together researchers in the areas of speech production, speech perception, and modeling of language acquisition.

Spoken sessions

The balance between the gradient and the discrete in language production

Gary Dell (U Illinois Urbana Champaign)
Implicit learning of artificial phonotactic patterns in the production system:
Connections to the perceptual system and to real phonotactic knowledge

Matt Goldrick (Northwestern)
Gradient symbol processing in speech production

Listener adaptation to variation

Jennifer Cole (U Illinois Urbana Champaign)
Modeling listener variability in prosody perception using transcription and
imitation as indirect measures of linguistic processing

Meghan Sumner (Stanford)
Variation-driven speech perception

Acquisition biases and typological patterns

Andrew Wedel (U Arizona)
Extending computational models into the laboratory:
Usage biases and the development of contrastive phoneme inventories

Joe Pater (U Massachusetts Amherst)
Formally biased phonology: Complexity in learning and typology


Call for poster submissions

In addition to the spoken session, a poster session will be held during the workshop. We invite submission of abstracts reporting computational, experimental, and grammar-based research on phonetics and phonology.

Abstracts should be a one-page .pdf file, formatted at minimum 12-point single-spaced with 1 inch margins. Tables, graphs and references can be on a separate page. Abstracts must be submitted electronically to Deadline for submissions: May 1, 2011.

Accepted abstracts will be posted to the workshop website.

Note: Participants may also be interested in the workshop on “Information-based approaches to linguistics” to be held the following weekend (July 16-17). See for more details.


Matt Goldrick
Joe Pater
Meghan Sumner



Kiparsky and Menn (1977).

Kiparsky, Paul, and Menn, Lise. (1977). On the acquisition of phonology. In John Macnamara (Ed.), Perspectives in Neurolinguistics and psycholinguistics. New York, NY: Academic Press. pp. 47-78.

Kiparsky and Menn (hereafter KM) present a theoretical argument for children as active discoverers of grammar, building structural representations based on evidence from the ambient language. In the process, KM propose a dual lexicon. The split includes one path between phonetic and phonological forms (i.e., some phonological processes map acoustic forms to the underlying phonological representations that link related words) and another path between incoming phonetic forms and the phonetic output that children create.

The chapter begins with “The Learning of the Phonetic Repertoire”, a discussion of the two major proposals for child phonology that existed in 1977. The first was Roman Jakobson’s, who proposes that phonology develops according to a universal system of contrasts, and contrasts are learned by children in the order of most to least universal. For example, children should contrast /d/ and /g/ before they contrast /d/ and /b/ (pp. 48-49). The problem with Jakobson’s approach is that it says nothing about the order in which the sounds themselves will be acquired. Furthermore, the absence of a contrast may indicate that children are intentionally, or selectively, avoiding a particular sound, but Jakobson says nothing about this or why sound evasion should happen. Therefore, KM consider Jakobson’s theory to be difficult to falsify.

Stampe’s theory is specific about when sounds will be acquired, but makes a distinction between phonological rules and phonological processes. Rules are the grammatical means by which speakers convert from phonological to phonetic word forms, such as the flapping or homorganic nasal cluster rules. Processes, on the other hand, are innate rule-like conversions that explain the kinds of errors that children make. For example, children produce voiced word-final stops without voicing (/d/ –> [t]/__#) because of a devoicing process. Speakers of languages like English, which do voice final stops, must overcome these processes.

KM describe several problems with this view. First, it appears that Stampe’s theory requires children to learn phonological rules in the same order as they would unlearn phonological processes. This is an empirical but unstudied question.* Second, KM find no reason to assume that adult speakers maintain rules on the one hand and processes on the other (i.e., German speakers do not appear to be stuck in a word-final devoicing process, and regardless, they must still learn the allomorphy that relates allomorphs with voiced and voiceless final stops).

KM also criticize both Jakobson and Stampe as being overly deterministic and not allowing for the kind of variability inherent to child language learners. As evidence, they point to the fact that children break up consonant clusters in a variety of ways, and to the fact that children often produce phonological idioms, words that are produced more accurately than the phonological processes apparently at work in their language would predict. In sum, KM state that we need a new model of phonological development. However, they do not focus much on the development of sounds or sound contrasts. Instead, they focus on the fact that children’s production abilities lag behind their perceptual abilities.

KM propose the dual lexicon to account for a distinction between cognitive grammar learning and articulatory sound implementation. Children may learn the cognitive grammar at whatever pace (KM describe it as going on over many years, although I think that today’s infant literature would generally contradict that**), but the development of a productive sound repertoire is separate from the cognitive grammar. Thus, we have two lexicons.

The second part of the book, “The Learning of Morphophonemics”, is somewhat orthogonal to the dual lexicon proposal, so I do not discuss it.

Here, I identify what I think are outstanding issues in the paper, some of which will be addressed in future posts. First, is the dual lexicon meant to be only a description of the grammar, or is it also a processing model? In other words, when formulating a message, does a child start with the phonological grammar, which is translated into a phonetic form, which is then translated into the child’s pronunciation? KM suggest that, in fact, their may be yet another step, in which physical limitations act on the message, as would be the case for a lisp. Second, KM propose that children do not have allomorphy. Is this really true? It seems to me that children could be learning meanings and linking related word forms at a fairly early age. However, I’m not familiar with the literature on this topic. Third, the logical dependency of the dual lexicon and KM’s proposal of the child as “language discoverer”*** view is not clear to me.

The Dual Lexicon Model

Hello All,

I’ve lately become interested in the dual lexicon model, originally conceived of by Lisa Menn and put in print in Kiparsky and Menn (1977). My basic interest is in what I consider to be an outstanding problem in phonological development, and the primary motivator of the dual lexicon model, namely, why children’s production abilities lag behind their perceptual abilities.

To satisfy my interests, I’ve started reading more about the model and its various instantiations, and I’m posting my notes to Phonoloblog. In a moment, I’ll post a review of Kiparsky and Menn (1997). Future posts will cover Hewlett (1989), Menn and Matthei (1992), Smolensky (1996), and a section of Hale and Reiss (2008). If you’d like to see a particular manuscript reviewed, let me know. I’d also love to get feedback about the proposals I’m reviewing (or about my reviews). Thanks!


Nineteenth Manchester Phonology Meeting


Nineteenth Manchester Phonology Meeting

19-21 MAY 2011

Deadline for abstracts: 28th February 2011

Special session: ‘Contrast in Phonology’, featuring Paul Boersma, B. Elan Dresher, Bruce Morén-Duolljá and Jaye Padgett.

Held at Hulme Hall, Manchester, England. Organised through a collaboration of phonologists at the University of Edinburgh, the University of Manchester, and elsewhere.

Conference website:

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Phonology job @ USC

The Department of Linguistics of the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences at the University of Southern California invites applications for a tenure-track Assistant Professor in the area of experimental and/or theoretical phonology, to begin August 2011. Duties include active research, graduate supervision, normal committee service, and classroom teaching at all levels, including general education courses, courses for undergraduate majors, and graduate seminars. The standard teaching load is two courses per semester.

The candidate must have completed all of the requirements for a Ph.D. in Linguistics or related field with a specialization in experimental and/or theoretical phonology by 1 August 2011. Candidates are requested to submit a cover letter, curriculum vitae, statement of experience and interests both for research and for teaching, sample papers and publications, and, if available, teaching evaluations. Applicants should also arrange for three letters of recommendation to be sent from individuals who are familiar with their work.

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Psycholinguistics job @ Bucknell

The Linguistics Program at Bucknell University invites applications for a tenure-track position at the assistant professor level beginning in Fall 2011. A PhD in Linguistics is required by the time of appointment. Qualified applicants will have no more than four years of full-time faculty experience beyond completion of the PhD. The successful candidate should show scholarly promise or accomplishment and a commitment to excellence in teaching on the undergraduate level. The position has been designated in the area of psycholinguistics and experimental methods, with a program of research and teaching that links experimental findings with linguistic theory. The successful applicant should also be able to teach general introductory courses and upper-level courses in phonology and morphology. Preference will be given to candidates who have a demonstrated interest or experience in teaching general education and/or interdisciplinary courses.

To apply, please submit cover letter and CV to Three letters of recommendation should be sent to Prof. James Lavine at the email address given below. Review of materials will begin on October 15, 2010, and continue until the position is filled. Bucknell University is a highly selective, primarily undergraduate institution, combining a strong liberal arts tradition with characteristics of a comprehensive university. Bucknell values a diverse college community and is committed to excellence through diversity in its faculty, staff, and students. Questions about the position should be addressed by email to Prof. James Lavine.

Web Address for Applications:

Contact Information: Prof. James Lavine

Linguist List link:

Phonetics job @ Cornell

The Department of Linguistics at Cornell University invites applications for a tenure-track position in linguistics with a specialization in phonetics, to begin July 1, 2011. Candidates are expected to pursue an active research program in experimental phonetics. Strengths in a related area such as computational modeling, experimental phonology, or psycholinguistics will also be considered an asset. Teaching responsibilities include both graduate and undergraduate courses. The position will be at the rank of Assistant Professor or Associate Professor. PhD required.

Application details: Electronic submission is preferred. Candidates should submit a letter of application, CV, representative published or unpublished scholarly work, and at least three letters of recommendation to the application email address below.

Alternatively, candidates may submit to the application address below.

To ensure full consideration, applications should be received by November 22, 2010. Acknowledgement of receipt will be made by e-mail.

Any inquiries may be addressed to Mats Rooth, email address below; please include “Phonetics Search” in the subject line.

Cornell University is an equal opportunity employer and educator. Women and minorities are strongly encouraged to apply.

Mailing Address for Applications:
Phonetics Search Committee
Department of Linguistics
203 Morrill Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853-4701

Email Address for Applications:

Contact Information: Professor Mats Rooth

Linguist List link:

Phonology job @ CSU Fullerton

The Department of English, Comparative Literature, and Linguistics at CSU Fullerton invites applications for Assistant Professor in Linguistics with training in phonetics and phonology. Teaching assignments include introductory and specialty courses in Linguistics at the upper-division and M.A. levels, G.E., grammar, language, and other courses depending on the candidate’s interests and departmental needs. Department faculty teach three or four courses each semester. A reduction in teaching load is provided for the first two years, and re-assigned time is available for research, course development, and departmental responsibilities.

Ph.D. in Linguistics with training and experience in English is required by August 2011. ABD’s must show evidence of degree completion prior to appointment. Ability to interact effectively with a wide and culturally diverse range of students, evidence of successful teaching, potential for peer-reviewed publication, and participation in disciplinary community are essential. Starting salary is competitive and commensurate with qualifications and experience. For a more detailed description go to

Submit letter of interest, C.V., and dossier to Sheryl Fontaine at the address below. Application acknowledged by letter. Applications postmarked by October 29, 2010 receive full consideration. Preliminary interviews held at MLA. Job Control Number: 23603G-11-015. CSUF is an EEO/TITLE IX/ADA Employer.

Mailing Address for Applications:
Sheryl Fontaine, Chair
Department of English, Comparative Literature, and Linguistics
University Hall 323
California State University Fullerton
Fullerton, CA 92834-6848

Contact Information: Chair Sheryl Fontaine

Linguist List link:

Phonology job @ UMass Amherst

The Linguistics Department of the University of Massachusetts Amherst invites applications for a tenure-track position in phonology at the assistant professor level, starting September 1, 2011. We seek applicants whose research interests complement those of the current faculty and who can contribute breadth and depth to the department with respect to research, teaching, and advising at the graduate and undergraduate levels.

Qualified applicants should have a Ph.D. in linguistics by time of appointment. Salary commensurate with qualifications and experience. Teaching load 2:2.

Applicants should submit a letter of application, statement of research and teaching interests, curriculum vitae, copies of research papers, and evidence of teaching ability, and they should arrange for three letters of reference to be sent. Materials should be sent (hard copy only) to the address below.

Review of applications will begin on December 15, 2010 and continue until the position is filled.

UMass Amherst is a member of the Academic Career Network, a resource for dual-career couples ( and a member of the Five College Consortium along with Amherst, Hampshire, Smith and Mt. Holyoke Colleges. The University of Massachusetts Amherst is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer. The Linguistics Department is committed to increasing the diversity of the faculty, student body, and curriculum. Women and members of minority groups are strongly encouraged to apply.

Mailing Address for Applications:

Phonology Search Committee
Department of Linguistics, 226 South College
University of Massachusetts Amherst
150 Hicks Way
Amherst, MA 01003-9274

Search Administrator Sarah Vega-Liros

Linguist List link:

Phonology (or semantics) job @ NYU

The Department of Linguistics at New York University seeks an assistant professor to fill a tenure-track position either in Phonology or in Semantics, beginning September 1, 2011, pending administrative and budgetary approval. Responsibilities include teaching undergraduate and graduate courses.

Review of applications will begin on November 1, 2010. Apply here.

Applicants should submit a letter of application describing their research program; curriculum vitae; three letters of recommendation; and work samples. Linguists that work on endangered languages and/or under-researched languages are encouraged to apply. For further information about this position, please contact Professor Chris Barker.

Linguist List link:

Fun with the low back vowel merger

On this week’s Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! (“the NPR news quiz”), a listener-contestant from around NYC had trouble filling in the last word of a limerick read (as usual) by Carl Kassel. You can hear the most relevant 45-second clip here, or you can find the full 5:39-minute segment in the rundown from Wait Wait’s website here (find the August 21 show, and scroll down to find the sixth segment entitled “Limericks”).

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Phonological Argumentation

Phonological Argumentation
Essays on Evidence and Motivation

Edited by: Steve Parker
Equinox Publishing
Series: Advances in Optimality Theory

This volume presents a series of original papers focusing on phonological argumentation, set within the framework of Optimality Theory. It contains two major sections: chapters about the evidence for and methodology used in discovering the bases of phonological theory, i.e., how constraints are formed and what sort of evidence is relevant in positing them; and case studies that focus on particular theoretical issues within Optimality Theory, usually through selected phenomena in one or more languages, arguing in favor of or against specific formal analyses.

A noteworthy detail of this book is that all of the contributors are connected with the program in phonology and phonetics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, either as current professors or former graduate students. Consequently, all of them have been directly influenced by John McCarthy, one of the major proponents of Optimality Theory. This collection will therefore be of interest to anyone who seriously follows the field of Optimality Theory. The intended readership is primarily graduate students and those already holding an advanced degree in linguistics.

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1st Poster Session

Poster Session

NOTE: I’ve edited this post less than the last one, so it may be harder to read.

Do articulatory constraints play a role in speech errors? (Slis & Van Dies Hout) — Past research has shown that vowel context influences whether or not you get speech errors (by Goldstein and others). Using EMA data, the authors showed that there is tongue tip movement during production of /k/ and tongue dorsum movement in production of /t/, at least in words that contain both of these consonants. Let’s call these non-matching articulations. They then looked at nonmatching articulations in a variety of vowel contexts for English speakers. The amount of movement varied by vowel. The follow-up question is whether this variation is sometimes not normal and whether (as we expect based on past research by Goldstein and others) these not normal or aberrant articulations occur more often with some vowels versus others. For example, sometimes the amount of non-matching articulation is much greater than something like a standard deviation from typical non-matching articualtion. The basic idea is to have a system of automatic speech error recognition based on the kinematics and conforming to past research on errors being conditioned by vowels. This next step is currently ongoing and should be completed shortly.

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The House that Halle Built

…and we’re back. A couple of years ago, there was a lively discussion about phonological opacity that was split between Mr. Verb and phonoloblog. Mr. Verb has now posted a new installment — well, sort of. The post is mostly just a pointer to this MIT News piece on Morris Halle, but Mr. Verb references the earlier discussion (calling it the “Opacity Wars” in a later comment) and explicitly invites some reaction. This is mine.

(Before moving on, you may want to (re-)acquaint yourself with the earlier discussion, all the links to which can be found here. Mr. Verb says “start here and work back”, but that’s hardly helpful; the only link in that post is a totally useless one to phonoloblog‘s main page.)

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phonology teaching job, SoCal

The linguistics department at CSU Long Beach is looking for an instructor for a graduate (M.A.-level) seminar in phonology and phonetics for the  fall 2010 semester. The course meets once a week on Monday evenings, 5-8, and the instructor will also need to schedule an office hour.  A PhD is preferred, but advanced graduate students in phonology or phonetics will also be considered.

To apply, send a letter of interest, CV, and three letters of recommendation to dept chair Malcolm Finney (, and CC me ( Dr. Finney can give an estimate of salary, which is dependent on degree level and teaching experience.

The position is open  until filled.

OT-Help 2.0

OT-Help 2.0 is now available for free download from:

OT-Help 2 provides new tools for studying language typology in Harmonic Serialism (serial OT) and serial Harmonic Grammar.

The serial components of OT-Help 2 allow users to define their own operations in Gen and constraints in Con. These operations and constraints are used to compute the typology for a list of inputs. New hypotheses about Gen and Con can be evaluated quickly and easily.

The development of OT-Help 2 was funded by grant BCS-0813829 from the National Science Foundation to the University of Massachusetts Amherst (co-PIs: John McCarthy and Joe Pater). Other work produced under that grant, including work that uses OT-Help 2 to investigate serial OT and HG, is available at:

Conference on Phonetic Universals

Conference on Phonetic Universals

  • Date: October 29-30, 2010
  • Place: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig (Germany)
  • Organised by: Heriberto Avelino (Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Anthropology)
  • Short description: We invite papers from linguists, as well as from scholars from related disciplines, who are concerned with phonetic universals.
  • Call deadline: May 15, 2010

A message from the LINGUIST List

It’s never a happy time when fund drives come around again, and most people hate asking for money. This time, however, the drive affects you directly. Lots of the information provided on phonoloblog comes from the LINGUIST List, so what benefits them also benefits us.

Read more below. To donate, go to: And thanks.

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NAPhC 6 at Concordia

The Linguistics Program at Concordia University presents
Sixth North American Phonology Conference

(NAPhC 6)
Concordia University, Montreal
April 30-May 2, 2010

Theme: A celebration of the 51st anniversary of the publication of The Sound Pattern of Russian.

Morris Halle’s (1959) The Sound Pattern of Russian (SPR) proposes 6 formal conditions that a phonological theory should fulfill, paraphrased as follows:

Condition 1: Phonological representations consist of segments and boundaries.

Condition 2: The phonetic properties of segments are characterized by a set of binary distinctive features.

Condition 3: A phonological description of a language must provide a deterministic algorithm for mapping from an input  representation (containing only phonological information) to an output representation.

Condition 4: The phonology must interface with other modules of grammar, such as syntax.

Condition 5: In phonological representations the number of specified features is consistently reduced to a minimum compatible with satisfying Conditions (3) and (4).

Condition 6: Morphological boundaries have to be eliminated or converted by the phonology.

These six conditions serve as the theme of this year’s NAPhC. We invite papers (on any and all languages–not just Russian!) that address issues raised by these conditions and other aspects of SPR. Are these conditions met by current models? Has their acceptance or rejection been sufficiently justified? For example, do Halle’s arguments for binarity still hold? Are other arguments available for binarity? Have models that evaluate alignment of, say, syllables and morphemes justified the rejection of Condition 6?

Please submit an anonymous 2 page abstract in pdf format to submissions by March 26, 2010. Authors of accepted papers will be notified on March 29, 2010.

Invited Speakers:
Lee Bickmore (SUNY Albany)
Daniel Currie Hall (Meertens Instituut)
Suzanne Urbanczyk (University of Victoria)

Organizing Committee:
Mark Hale
Madelyn Kissock
Charles Reiss

IU Working Papers in Linguistics: Volume 8 – African Linguistics Across the Discipline

IULC Publications, the linguistics graduate student run publications group at Indiana University, is pleased to announce the release of the 8th volume in its working papers series: African Linguistics Across the Discipline, edited by Jonathan Anderson, Christopher Green, and Samuel Obeng. This working papers includes a number of works from IU graduate students, current faculty, and recent alums, many of which focus on phonology and phonological theory. Please visit IULC Publications to view the full table of contents and to order yourself a copy of the volume. IULC Publications also has two other volumes in their series (Vol 1 and 6) that focus on phonology. Other phonology-specific titles can also be found.

Phonology-specific titles include:
A morphophonological analysis of onomatopoeic ideophones in Akan (Twi) — Seth A. Ofori
Does tone polarity exist? Evidence from plural formation among Bangime nouns — Abbie Hantgan
Conditioning factors in the realization of tone: LuNyala verbs — Kristopher Ebarb & Michael R. Marlo
Syncope and the drive towards minimization in Colloquial Bamana — Christopher R. Green, Stuart Davis, Boubacar Diakite, & Karen Baertsch

Word Accent: Theoretical and Typological Issues

A one-day conference on the subject of Word Accent: Theoretical and Typological Issues

will take place on Friday April 30th, 2010 (9.30 – 5.30) at the University of Connecticut.

(Location Nathan Inn Hotel,

Speakers: Matthew Gordon, Carlos Gussenhoven, Jeff Heinz, Harry van der Hulst, Brett Hyde, Larry Hyman, Ian Maddieson, Keren Rice, Lisa Selkirk

Organizer: Harry van der Hulst

For further information go to (Program and abstracts will be posted soon).

(Update: view the program and abstracts here.)

Please write to if you plan to come or have any further questions.

Computational phonology post-doc @ OSU

In case you missed it on LINGUIST List:

Postdoctoral Fellow in Computational Phonology
Department of Linguistics
The Ohio State University

Applications are invited for a postdoctoral position in the Department of Linguistics at The Ohio State University. The position will be primarily research-oriented, with a light teaching load of two courses per year. The ideal applicant will have a background in phonology with strong computational skills particularly with regards to the computational modeling of probabilistic patterns in language. The appointment will be for one year beginning on July 1, 2010, with the possibility of reappointment for an additional year.

Applicants should submit a current CV, a letter outlining relevant experience, a writing sample, and the names of three references to Elizabeth Hume.

Applications received prior to April 2, 2010 will be assured of receiving full consideration. For information about the OSU Department of Linguistics, please visit

The Ohio State University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action employer. Women, minorities, Vietnam-era veterans, disabled veterans, and individuals with disabilities are encouraged to apply.


Call for Papers

ACL 2010
Uppsala, Sweden
July 15

Eleventh Meeting of the ACL Special Interest Group in Computational Morphology, Phonology and Phonetics

The workshop will be held on July 15, immediately after the ACL 2010 meetings at Uppsala University in Uppsala, Sweden.

The workshop website is:

Important Dates:
* Submission Deadline: April 25, 2010, 23:59 EDT
* Notification: May 19, 2010
* Camera-ready deadline: June 2, 2010
* Workshop: July 15 or 16, 2010

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Call for course proposals: LSA 2011

Dear colleagues,
I don’t think it’s widely known that the 2011 summer institute courses are being chosen based on submissions, rather than through the usual invitation procedure. I’m posting this here because I thought that the risk of creating more competition for my own proposal was far outweighed by the chance of seeing some of you there.

The 2011 Linguistic Institute, which will take place at the University of Colorado at Boulder from July 5 to August 5, 2011, is seeking proposals for courses to be offered at the Institute. The online submission process for these proposals is now available.

Call for proposals:

Institute website:

Online submission website:

E-mail contact: lsa2011atcoloradodotedu

Deadline for course proposals: January 15, 2010.

Major sponsors of the 2011 Linguistic Institute include the Linguistic Society of America and the Department of Linguistics, University of Colorado at Boulder.

Tenure-track position at UMass

UMass Linguistics is conducting a search in the context of a campus-wide hiring initiative in the area of Language, Experimentation, and Computation. Our position has been designated for either a psycholinguist (working “above the level of the word” – this could include prosody), or a specialist in computational and/or experimental approaches to phonological theory. The full ad can be found here.

The other positions are in Psycholinguistics in Psychology, and Natural Language Processing in Computer Science.

Goldrick, Matthew. (in press). Utilizing psychological realism to advance phonological theory.

Hello All,

I just finished reading a draft of Matt Goldrick’s chapter from the upcoming Handbook of Phonological Theory (2nd Edition). I enjoyed it and found it helpful in the way it covers the relationship between theoretical work on generative grammar and psycholinguistic work. So, I wrote a short summary, which I’m posting


Goldrick essentially reviews the role of phonotactics in psycholinguistic literature, but takes as a starting point the term “psychological reality” as it was used by Sapir (1933) to refer to the cognitive status of a grammar. Goldrick argues that it is vital for linguists to approach their research with at least some understanding of psychological reality—how things happen in real time, for instance—and that theories of grammar can only be improved by consideration of related data from the psycholinguistic literature.

As an example, Goldrick discusses the division between pre-lexical processing and lexical processing in the speech perception literature. Pre-lexical processing refers to a cognitive function which takes in fine-grained acoustic information (something like the signal sent along the auditory nerve) and spits out a pre-lexical but phonologically detailed representation. Lexical processing then takes this representation that has been passed to it and finds the corresponding entry in the mental lexicon . The term ‘function’ is used consistently to refer to a theoretical mapping of inputs (say, the signal from the auditory nerve) to outputs (phonemic representations). Following Marr (1982) and Smolensky (2006), Goldrick contrasts these levels of description with a higher algorithmic level—which details how a function is computed—and a lower neural level—which explains how the brain acheives a function. Of course, description at all three levels is necessary.

Goldrick works through evidence that categorical and gradient phonotactics influence both pre-lexical and lexical processing stages withing the larger cognitive task of single word recognition. As an example, identification tasks show listeners erroneously hear ill-formed sequences as well-formed ones; discrimination tasks show listeners have difficulty keeping separate words with ill-formed sequences and well-formed words that contain the likely repair strategies for the ill-formed words. Importantly, identification and discrimination errors do not always lead to real words, so they are arguably pre-lexical processing effects. More broadly, the reviewed psycholinguistic literature supports the existence of phonotactic representations apart from lexical ones, and it appears the representations are actively engaged in multiple cognitive functions, including both pre-lexical and lexical processing.

As something of a cautionary tale to linguistics, Goldrick talks about what can be gleaned from studies of wordlikeness judgments. First, he points out that the cognitive mechanisms employed in a judgment task are poorly defined (as Rob Fiorentino would say, it’s a very offline task), so it’s difficult to say what in the task reflects grammar (a mapping between surface and underlying forms) and what reflects other cognitive functions. We know, for example, that lexical neighborhood affects influence judgments (Bailey & Hahn, 2001). We also know from Luce and Vitevitch’s work (see refs below) that having real works in other tasks with nonwords increases the effects of lexical neighborhoods, and recently Shademan (2006, 2007) has shown that including real words in a judgment task does the same thing. Albright (2009) argues that the distribution of phonotactic probabilities within a nonword set also influences the relative roles of lexical and phonotactic effects on judgments. Finally, Goldrick notes that judgments may be the result of prior processes, such as perceptual effects that warp the percept. For example, Dupoux, Kakehi, Hirose, Pallier, and Mehler (1999) showed that Japanese listeners “repair” illegal consonant clusters by inserting an epenthetic vowel (cf. Berent et al., 2008, in PNAS).

For linguists, all the literature above means that claims to study competence apart from performance are not tenable, at least if our data are from wordlikeness tasks. We can’t study competence from these tasks because we know that the judgments are influenced by extra-grammatical factors. Therefore, Goldrick’s initial goal of emphasizing the importance of psychological reality within the study of linguistics holds. Beyond that, Goldrick offers several steps for future research, including some ideas for the study of the interaction of phonotactic and lexical knowledge.

Representative References

Albright, Adam (2009). Feature-based generalisation as a source of gradient acceptability. Phonology 26: 9-41.

Bailey, Todd M. and Ulrike Hahn (2001). Determinants of wordlikeness: Phonotactics or lexical neighborhoods? Journal of Memory and Language 44: 568-591.

Berent, Iris, Tracy Lennertz, Jongho Jun, Miguel A. Moreno, & Paul Smolensky (2008). Language universals in human brains. PNAS 105: 5321-5325.

Dupoux, Emmanuel, Kazuhiko Kakehi, Yuki Hirose, Christophe Pallier, and Jacque Mehler (1999). Epenthetic vowels in Japanese: A perceptual illusion? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance 25:1568-1578.

Marr, David (1982). Vision. San Francisco: W. H. Freeman and Company.

Sapir, Edward (1933). La Réalité psychologique des phonèmes. Journal de Psychologie Normale et Pathologuique 30: 247-265. English translation reprinted in David G. Mandelbaum (ed.) (1949), Selected Writings of Edward Sapir in Language, Culture and Personality 46-60. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Shademan, Shabnam (2006). Is phonotactic knowledge grammatical knowledge? In Donald Baumer, David Montero, and Michael Scanlon (eds.) Proceedings of the 25th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics 371-379. Somerville, MA: Cascadilla Press.

Smolensky, Paul (2006). Computational levels and integrated connectionist/symbolic explanation. In Paul Smolensky and Géraldine Legendre The Harmonic Mind: From Neural Computation to Optimality-Theoretic Grammar (Vol. 2, Linguistic and Philosophical Implications) 503-592. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Vitevitch, Michael S. (2003). The influence of sublexical and lexical representations in the processing of spoken words in English. Clinical Linguistics & Phonetics 17: 487-499.

Vitevitch, Michael S., Paul A. Luce (1999). Probabilistic phonotactics and neighborhood density in spoken word recognition. Journal of Memory and Language 40: 374-408.


One-year phonology position at USC

The Department of Linguistics of the College of Letters, Arts and Sciences at the University of Southern California invites applications for a one-year non-tenure-track Lecturer or one-year Adjunct Assistant Professor (non-tenure-track) for the academic year 2010-2011 to teach courses in phonology and assist in advising graduate students, from beginning to advanced. The position will involve teaching four courses, two in the fall semester and two in the spring semester. Teaching responsibilities are expected to include the following courses: courses from the first year graduate sequence in Phonology, a graduate seminar in Phonology, Introduction to Phonetics and Phonology (undergraduate), and Advanced Phonology (undergraduate).

The candidate must have completed all of the requirements for a Ph.D. in Linguistics or related field with a specialization in phonology by 1 August 2010. Candidates are requested to submit a curriculum vitae, cover letter describing experience and interests for both research and teaching, sample papers, and, if available, teaching evaluations. Applicants should also arrange for three letters of recommendation to be sent from individuals who are familiar with their work.

Electronic submission of application materials is strongly recommended. Materials should be submitted to the following email address with the subject heading “Phonology Search”:

In cases where hard copy submission is deemed necessary, materials should be sent to the following address.

Phonology Search Committee
Department of Linguistics
3601 Watt Way, Grace Ford Salvatori 301
University of Southern California
Los Angeles, CA 90089-1693

For fullest consideration, applications should be received by 1 February, 2010.

Questions about the position may be directed to the search committee chair, Rachel Walker, at

The University of Southern California strongly values diversity and is committed to equal opportunity in employment. Women and men, and members of all racial and ethnic groups, are encouraged to apply.

Eighteenth Manchester Phonology Meeting (mfm18)


Eighteenth Manchester Phonology Meeting

20-22 MAY 2010

Deadline for abstracts: 1st February 2010

Special session: ‘Sociolinguistics, variation and phonology’, featuring Andries Coetzee, William Labov, Marc van Oostendorp and Jane Stuart-Smith.

Held at Hulme Hall, Manchester, England. Organised through a collaboration of phonologists at the University of Edinburgh, the University of Manchester, and elsewhere.

Conference website:

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How do we feel about acronyms?

I’ve been sitting in on a class on developmental language disorders here at Purdue. The course instructor, Larry Leonard, was describing the Rice/Wexler Test of Early Grammatical Impairment, which “assesses the use of tense and agreement morphology by children ages 3 through 8 years” (from my handout). Apparently, some people know this test by its initials, TEGI, and some subset of those people use TEGI as an acronym pronounced /tigi/. Larry went on to say that, amongst certain circles of the speech and hearing world, /tigi/ is looked down upon. This reminded me of a rant by NPR sports contributor Frank Deford about the pronunciation of the baseball term RBI as /rɪbi/.

So, here’s my question: do acronyms generally have social stigma when compared to a competing initialism (or alphabetization, as I was taught)? Is this a case of a prescriptively bad phonological process?

Note: A brief search didn’t turn up discussion of this issue on Language Log, although the acronym/initialism distinction seems well covered. And here’s a sampling of pronunciations from Nintendo fans!

Reminder: Nov. 20 deadline for abstracts, Workshop on Computational Modelling of Sound Pattern Acquisition

Workshop on Computational Modelling of Sound Pattern Acquisition

When and where: University of Alberta, Edmonton, February 13-14, 2010.  Robert Kirchner and Anne-Michelle Tessier, organizers

Theme: Major advances have been made in recent years towards explicit  modelling of phonological acquisition, including increasingly  sophisticated OT learning algorithms, as well as application of general machine learning techniques (e.g. expectation maximization and maximum entropy learning). At the same time, evidence of token and type frequency sensitivity in the propagation of both categorical and gradient patterns in speech has spurred growing interest in exemplar-based models of acquisition and processing.  This workshop aims to bring together these two strands of research, promoting dialogue between those pursuing symbolic and subsymbolic approaches to acquisition of the sound patterns of spoken language. We invite oral and poster presentations from phonologists, phoneticians, psycholinguists, computational linguists, and speech scientists on this general theme.  Though relevant analytic, programmatic, or experimental presentations are also welcome, priority will be given to abstracts reflecting original computational modelling results for some aspect of phonological/phonetic acquisition.

Invited speakers will include: Adam Albright (MIT), Michael Becker (Harvard), Andries Coetzee (Michigan), Robert Daland (UCLA), Bruce Hayes (UCLA), Jeff Mielke (Ottawa), Ben Munson (Minnesota), James Myers (CCU, Taiwan), Janet Pierrehumbert (Northwestern), Alan Yu (Chicago).  Titles to be announced.

Funding and registration fee: The organizers anticipate sufficient funding to cover travel and hotel costs of all presenters whose abstracts are accepted, above and beyond the invited speakers.  A registration fee of $70 ($50 students) will be charged to cover the cost of coffee break refreshments.  Late registration (after Jan. 1, 2010) is $100 ($75 students).  Registrants are encouraged to order tickets for a Saturday evening banquet, at an additional cost of $35.  All prices are in Canadian dollars.

Submission: Abstracts for oral or poster presentations should be no longer than one page (US letter or A4, 11 pt, 1 inch margins) with a second page for references, data and/or figures. Abstracts should be emailed as a PDF attachment to, deadline: midnight (Mountain Time), November 20, 2009.

Unless the submitter indicates otherwise, the organizers will consider each abstract’s suitability for oral or poster presentation. Authors should include the title, name(s), and affiliation(s) in the body of the email.

See for more information.

Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship at Northwestern University

The Department of Linguistics at Northwestern University invites applications for a full-time non-renewable Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship funded through a grant to the University from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The fellowship is for a period of two academic years, beginning September 1, 2010. In accordance with the fellowship guidelines, all requirements for the Ph.D. must be completed prior to the start of the fellowship period. We are seeking recent Ph.D.s in any subfield of linguistics who have analyzed primary data (e.g., experimental data, field data, or natural language corpora) in order to address theoretical issues.

Salary is competitive and commensurate with qualifications. The position also provides funds for computer facilities and professional travel. Mellon postdoctoral fellows are expected to participate fully in Northwestern’s interdisciplinary research environment, teach a one-quarter lecture course and a one-quarter seminar per year, and present one colloquium per year.

For fullest consideration, candidates should ensure that their application arrives in the Department before December 1, 2009. APPLICATIONS BY E-MAIL WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED. The application should include the candidate’s CV (indicating an e-mail address), statements of research and teaching interests, teaching evaluations (if available), and reprints or other written work. (Finalists will be asked to submit a copy of the dissertation, or completed portions thereof, at a later date; it is not necessary to do so at this time.) Candidates should arrange to have 3-4 letters of reference sent directly to the search committee by the application deadline; if possible, one of the letters should specifically address the applicant’s teaching qualifications.

Send all materials to:
Mellon Search Committee
Department of Linguistics
Northwestern University
2016 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208-4090
(Tel: 847-491-7020, Fax: 847-491-3770)

E-mail inquiries should be directed to The web page for the Department is:

Northwestern University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer, and applications from minority and women candidates are especially welcome. The fellowship is open to non-US citizens, as long as the necessary permit to work in the US is in hand prior to September 1, 2010.

Phonetics/Phonology Job at Brown University

From Sheila Blumstein:

The Department of Cognitive and Linguistic Sciences and the Department of Psychology announce that we will seek to fill four positions in language and linguistics over the next three years. Here we invite applications for an open-rank position in Phonetics/Phonology beginning July 1, 2010. Research focus is open, but we especially value programs of research that cross traditional boundaries of topics and methodology, including theoretical approaches. Interests in cross-linguistic and/or developmental research are highly desirable. The individual filling this position must be able to teach an introductory phonology course as well as a course in experimental phonetics. Additional positions that we will be hiring include a current search in (a) syntactic/semantic/pragmatic language processing, and two others tentatively in the areas of (b) lexical representation and processing, morphology, and/or word formation; and (c) computational modeling, cognitive neuroscience, and/or biology of language. Successful candidates are expected to have (1) a track record of excellence in research, (2) a well-specified research plan, and (3) a readiness to contribute to undergraduate and graduate teaching and mentoring. Brown has a highly interdisciplinary research environment in the study of mind, brain, behavior, and language and is establishing an integrated Department of Cognitive, Linguistic, and Psychological Sciences, effective July 2010. Plans to house the department in a newly renovated state-of-the-art building in the heart of campus are well under way. Curriculum vitae, reprints and preprints of publications, statements of research and teaching interests (one page each), and three letters of reference (for junior applicants) or names of five referees (for senior applicants) should be submitted on-line as PDFs to, or else by mail to Phonetics/Phonology Search Committee, Department of Cognitive & Linguistic Sciences, Box 1978, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912 USA. Applications received by January 5, 2010 are assured of full review. All Ph.D. requirements must be completed before July 1, 2010. Women and minorities are especially encouraged to apply. Brown University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.

A phonologist’s notes from the Neurobiology of Language Conference

Hello, Phonologists! A quick introduction—I’m Peter Richtsmeier. I have a Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of Arizona, with expertise in phonological acquisition and learning theory, and I’m currently working as a postdoctoral fellow in the Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences Department at Purdue.

I’m posting some scattered notes from last week’s Neurobiology of Language Conference (Thurs, Oct 15 – Fri, Oct 16, 2009; Chicago, IL). These are largely idiosyncratic as I’m not a neuroscientist and, for many presentations and almost all posters, I didn’t take detailed notes. If there are others out there that attended, you may want to supplement this posting. Well, here we go!

Panel Discussion: Motor Contribution to Speech Percetion: Essential or Ancillary?
Speakers: Luciano Fadiga (U Ferrara, Italy) and Gregory Hickok (UC Irvine, US)

Summary: The panel discussions were essentially debates with additional input from moderators and the audience. This panel discussion was in many ways a discussion about the Motor Theory of speech perception (Liberman & Mattingly, 1985) and the revival this theory has seen following the discovery of mirror neurons. Luciano argued for something like an updated Motor Theory: “Our hypothesis is that the motor system [specifically, the motor cortex and mirror neurons therein] provides fundamental information to perceptual processing of speech sounds and that this contribution becomes fundamental to focus attention on others’ speech” (from the abstract, prose in brackets was added by me). Greg argued that neuroscientific data does not support Motor Theory. In particular, the fact that lesions to the motor cortex do not prevent accurate speech perception fundamentally undermines any claim about the “necessity” of motor areas for speech perception and, by extension, the lesion data undermines Motor Theory.

My personal bias here is in opposition to Motor Theory. Rather than belaboring the point, I will refer you to Greg’s blog, Talking Brains (co-managed by David Poeppel), where he has posted extensively over the past few months about the shortcomings of both Motor Theory and claims about the importance of mirror neurons in speech perception. In fact, it’s worth noting that everyone at the conference was in agreement that there is relatively poor documentation regarding the mere existence of mirror neurons in humans (cf. recent polemic article by Caramazza and colleagues). They also agreed that mirror neurons are probably there, but it seems premature to make a very strong claim about how these neurons might affect speech perception at this time, especially when auditory models of speech perception are, well, kind of obvious. And good.

A final personal note: Phonology is constructed from perception in many ways.

Panel Discussion Highlights:

  • Luciano distances himself from what he calls mirror neuron “trash”, including the Magical Tapping Bears (40£ a bear!!! omg!!!)
  • Attendee Tom Bever claims that, contrary to popular belief, he and moderator Michael Arbib are not old enough to have known William James. Michael responds that he knew William James.
  • Luciano makes to end the session by saying that he really needs a cigarette. Moderator Michael Arbib concludes the session by saying, “Well folks, I guess it’s all been a lot of smoke and mirrors.”

Keynote Lecture: What can Brain Imaging Tell Us about Developmental Disorders of Speech and Language?
Speaker: Kate Watkins (U Oxford, UK)

Summary: Kate gave the only developmental keynote address, so naturally I was most engaged here. She’s fairly well known for her work with the KE family (Note that the KE family provided us with evidence that some language functioning depends on the FOXP2 gene. Some of the seminal research on this gene was done by Simon Fisher, another keynote speaker at the conference). Recently, Kate has branched out to neuroimaging studies of children with Specific Language Impairment (SLI) and developmental stuttering. This was not entirely clear to me before I heard her talk, but just in case anyone else out there is confused, developmental disorders such as SLI and stuttering rarely arise from lesions. Rather, they appear to result from myriad issues of neuronal size and number, as well as myelination. Kate’s research has shown that there are some interesting neurological correlates to these disorders, however. For example, children with SLI, like members of the KE family, have less gray matter in the caudate nucleus, a subcortical region implicating a motor deficit. Siblings of children with SLI also have diminutive caudate nuclei, suggesting that the size of this region primarily reflects a risk factor, and that many of the disorder’s sequelae must arise from something more complicated than a lone impaired region.

The other finding I thought worth mentioning is that children with SLI also show cortical areas with greater gray matter mass than their normally developing peers (but also reduced neural activity), including in the left frontal opercular cortex (posterior half of Broca’s area). Kate didn’t really discuss the behavioral outcomes of increased gray matter, but she suggested that the increase was likely the result of abnormal gyrification, or brain folding. Cool.

Personal note: One of my advisors here at Purdue, Larry Leonard, wrote the book on SLI.


  • Kate is the only female keynote speaker, bringing some relief to what often felt like a boy’s-only club
  • The presentation starts with Kate appearing to be a pleasant but disorganized British academic type who can’t seem to figure out how to get her slides to project. Oops! Turns out that the A/V staff hadn’t turned the projector on!

I’m finding that just covering these two sections has exhausted me, so this’ll be all for now. I may review some of the posters I liked sometime in the coming week, but some enouragement might be helpful to make it happen.


12th Conference on Laboratory Phonology

[ Via LINGUIST List. ]

The 12th Conference on Laboratory Phonology,
to be held at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, NM, USA.

Dates of conference: 8-10 July 2010
Theme: Gesture as Language, Gesture and Language.
More information at conference website

Deadline for abstract submission: 20 November 2009
Notification of acceptance: 1 February 2010

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GLOW Workshop on Phonology and Phonetics

[ Via LINGUIST List. ]

GLOW Workshop on Phonology and Phonetics
Positional Phenomena in Phonology and Phonetics
(Organised by Zentrum für Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft, Berlin)

Date: 13 April 2010
Organisers: Marzena Zygis, Stefanie Jannedy, Susanne Fuchs

Invited Speakers:
Taehong Cho (Hanyang University, Seoul) confirmed
Grzegorz Dogil (University of Stuttgart) confirmed

Venue: Instytut Filologii Angielskiej, ul. Kuznicza 22, 50-138 Wroclaw

Abstracts due November 1, 2009.

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The Contrastive Hierarchy in Phonology

The Contrastive Hierarchy in Phonology

B. Elan Dresher

Cambridge Studies in Linguistics No. 121

‘Contrast’ — the opposition between distinctive sounds in a language — is one of the most central concepts in linguistics. This book presents an original account of the logic and history of contrast in phonology. It provides empirical evidence from diverse phonological domains that only contrastive features are computed by the phonological component of grammar. It argues that the contrastive specifications of phonemes are governed by language-particular feature hierarchies. This approach assigns a key role to abstract cognitive structures, challenging contemporary approaches that favour phonetic explanations of phonological phenomena. Tracing the evolution of the hypothesis that contrastive features play a special role in phonology, it shows how this insight has been obscured by misunderstandings of the role of the contrastive feature hierarchy. Questioning the widely held notion that contrast should be based on minimal pairs, Elan Dresher argues that the contrastive hierarchy is indispensable to illuminating accounts of phonological patterning.

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The First International Graduate Student Conference on Modern Phonology

[ Via LINGUIST List. ]

‘Mao Kong Forum’ is established by the Mao Kong Graduate Student Phonology Group at the National Chengchi University (NCCU) in Taipei. It will begin with a phonology conference this year. The conference is open to a wide range of submissions by international graduate students.

Theme: Modern phonology (theoretical or experimental)
Organized by: Mao Kong Graduate Student Phonology Group, NCCU
Venue: Conference Room 2 and 5, 7th Floor, Administration Building, NCCU
Language: Chinese and English

Keynote Speakers:
Wang, H. Samuel (Department of Foreign Language and Applied Linguistics, Yuan Ze University)
Huang, Hui-Chuan (Institute of Linguistics, National Tsing Hua University)

Invited Speakers:
Lin, Hui-Shan (Department of English, National Taiwan Normal University)
Wee, Lian-Hee (Department of English Language and Literature, Hong Kong Baptist University)

1. Please email the abstract together with the submission form to MPC committee by October 1, 2009 (Thursday).
2. Please do not include author information in the abstract.

Notification of Acceptance: November 9, 2009 (Monday)

Please download the submission form here. For further information, please visit the following URL:

Torontø-Tromsø Phonoløgy Workshøp

[ Via LINGUIST List. ]

This workshop brings together phonologists from the University of Toronto, the University of Tromsø, and some from elsewhere with related interests.

Talks focus on the acquisition and analysis of contrast, markedness, laryngeal phonology, harmony, and the nature of features. Interested persons are welcome to attend, but please notify our contact person.

UCLA Phonetics Lab Archive now complete

[ Via the UCLA Linguistics Department Newsletter. ]

At the time of his death, the late Professor Peter Ladefoged was engaged in an NSF-supported project to digitize and post online many recordings from the Phonetics Lab’s archives. In 2006, Professor Russ Schuh stepped in to see the project to completion. The UCLA Phonetics Archive, now on line, mostly comprises field recordings by Ladefoged and others, but also includes some recordings made for undergraduate term papers. Over the course of the project, many recent UCLA Linguistics undergraduates worked to digitize the audio recordings and accompanying wordlists. These are not teaching materials (not like, but rather raw unedited recordings, which are primarily intended for use by researchers (though they are also great fun to browse). Nonetheless, the Archive provided excellent materials for class assignments in acoustic analysis for Linguistics 104 [at UCLA] in Fall 2007 and 2008. In November 2008, near the end of the project, [the LA-area public] radio station KPCC ran a story about the Archive.

Empirical Resources on Consonant Cluster Typology

[ From Steve Parker, via LINGUIST List. ]

I am looking for input (data) on tautosyllabic consonant clusters. Suppose that a syllable begins with two adjacent consonants, followed by a vowel: CCV. Technically this is called an initial demisyllable. I am aware of two competing claims/proposals about what kinds of consonants are cross-linguistically unmarked or preferred in this type of situation, both based on the notion of relative sonority. For the sake of simplicity, let us assume a common five-way sonority scale:

V (vowel)
G (glide)
L (liquid)
N (nasal)
O (obstruent)
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Filling ConCat

Almost exactly three years ago, I announced a plan on Phonoloblog: the plan to establish a Wiki for OT constraints, which should slowly grow into a large online reference on all constraints which have been proposed in the literature. The plan was born during a conversation with Curt Rice during the legendary Bloomington PhonologyFest of 2006.

The advantages of a ConCat are evident. It’s useful to have a tool where you can look up what has been written about a certain constraint, how it has been defined, which constraints are related to it, and whether some constraint has already been proposed in a different form or with a different name. Eventually, it could be a tool in the development of a true theory of possible OT constraints.

We established a website for ConCat in 2006, but it didn’t really grow since then. Maybe it was too small to be really attractive as a tool to use. This summer, however, I was fortunate enough to find two enthusiastic students from the University of the Aegean in Greece (Anna Fragkiadaki and Sofia Kousi) who filled the database with over 340 constraints, mostly excerpted from the handbooks by Kager and McCarthy, but also many other books and papers from the literature of the past 15 years.

I hope that in this way ConCat is becoming more useful. I hope you will see how useful it is, and that you start contributing.

Opacity deconstructed

In the before time, in the long long ago, I had a little tête-à-tête(-à-bête-noire) about phonological opacity with Mr. Verb and friends — you can follow along (again, or for the first time) here, then here, then here and here and here and here, then back here, and finally ending here (and don’t forget to squeeze the comments).

I got very hot under the collar about various things during that discussion, so much so that the focus of the discussion kinda shifted to my frustration with anonymous commenters on the internets (even my good friend Ed played for the other team on that one). But there was just one thing I was really upset about: the apparent inability of many fans of rule ordering to say anything about the fact that blocking is an instance of opacity about which rule ordering has nothing to say. (I used nonderived environment blocking as an example, but any other forms of blocking work.) The curse of the true believer is an unwillingness or inability to question the claims of the belief system, and the relevant claim in this case is “rule ordering explains opacity”.

Well, I’ve just finished a paper (for the forthcoming Blackwell Companion to Phonology) that sets out the issues (as I see them, of course) in a more academic, less hot-headed format, and I’ve posted it here. I hope that it generates some discussion here, either in the comments below, in new posts, or even over on Mr. Verb’s blog.

Homophony avoidance in acronym pronunciation?

During a discussion in our department meeting about whether to rename our TESL program a TESOL program (snore…), I learned that TESL is pronounced [tɛsəl] while TESOL is pronounced [tisɑl]. I’m curious as to why the pronunciation of the first vowel changes depending on the second vowel. I can think of two possibilities:

1) To emphasize the presence of the O in TESOL, speakers want a full vowel in the second syllable, which requires putting a secondary stress on the second syllable, which requires making the second syllable a foot, which in turn requires that the first syllable be a foot by itself: (t__)(sɑl). Being a single light syllable, (tɛ) would not make such a good foot, so (ti) is chosen instead.

2) Maybe [tɛsəl] and [tɛsɑl] would sound too similar, so an additional sound difference was introduced to disambiguate.

G. Nick Clements, 1940-2009

I’m sad to report that Nick Clements passed away in Chatham, Massachusetts, on August 30, just over a month shy of his 69th birthday (according to his Wikipedia entry). Beth Hume wrote an obituary for him on LINGUIST List, which I reproduce in full further below. Beth co-organized a symposium on tones and features in honor of Nick in June; the speaker list was a veritable who’s who of phonology, of which Nick was also of course a prominent member. He will be missed.

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Workshop on Computational Modelling of Sound Pattern Acquisition

When and where: University of Alberta, Edmonton, February 13-14, 2010.  Robert Kirchner and Anne-Michelle Tessier, organizers

Theme: Major advances have been made in recent years towards explicit  modelling of phonological acquisition, including increasingly  sophisticated OT learning algorithms, as well as application of general machine learning techniques (e.g. expectation maximization and maximum entropy learning). At the same time, evidence of token and type frequency sensitivity in the propagation of both categorical and gradient patterns in speech has spurred growing interest in exemplar-based models of acquisition and processing.  This workshop aims to bring together these two strands of research, promoting dialogue between those pursuing symbolic and subsymbolic approaches to acquisition of the sound patterns of spoken language. We invite oral and poster presentations from phonologists, phoneticians, psycholinguists, computational linguists, and speech scientists on this general theme.  Though relevant analytic, programmatic, or experimental presentations are also welcome, priority will be given to abstracts reflecting original computational modelling results for some aspect of phonological/phonetic acquisition.

Invited speakers will include: Adam Albright (MIT), Michael Becker (Harvard), Andries Coetzee (Michigan), Robert Daland (UCLA), Bruce Hayes (UCLA), Jeff Mielke (Ottawa), Ben Munson (Minnesota), James Myers (CCU, Taiwan), Janet Pierrehumbert (Northwestern), Alan Yu (Chicago).  Titles to be announced.

Funding: The organizers anticipate sufficient funding to cover travel and accommodation costs of all presenters whose abstracts are accepted, above and beyond the invited speakers.

Submission: Abstracts for oral or poster presentations should be no longer than one page (US letter or A4, 11 pt, 1 inch margins) with a second page for references, data and/or figures. Abstracts should be emailed as a PDF attachment to, deadline: midnight (Mountain Time), November 20, 2009.

Unless the submitter indicates otherwise, the organizers will consider each abstract’s suitability for oral or poster presentation. Authors should include the title, name(s), and affiliation(s) in the body of the email.

Question about texts, Doing OT (McCarthy), OT (Kager)

I’m hoping to get feedback about your experiences or advice regarding using Kager’s OT textbook, along with McCarthy’s Doing OT. Some background about the course I’m planning for: it’s a grad course that follows up a data-analysis and argumentation course in which we used Understanding Phonology (2nd ed., Gussenhoven and Jacobs), and didn’t really get into OT, which we’ll be doing this semester. I’ve used the Kager text before, and am planning to go through a chapter a week, then move on to articles that apply OT to various subfields of particular interest to our students (variation, change, acquisition, contact), and students will do problem sets at first, along with article reviews and then a final research project. I’ve never used Doing OT, and so wonder about your all’s experience with it, if you’ve ever used it in conjunction with the Kager text (interleaved, one after the other, ?). Any other input, advice, etc. would be much appreciated!


I just discovered this amazing online script for LaTeX users that converts your hand-drawn symbol into the appropriate LaTeX command (it also tells you which package you need to load to have access to the command, which for many people, may be the more useful function). The character recognition is very accurate in most cases, especially for math symbols, but of course, the more training it receives, the better the results will be.

It’s clear that the IPA symbols haven’t been trained very much yet. I’ve already noticed improvement just from my own limited training on ɒ, which wasn’t on the short list at all the first time I tried it, and now frequently appears as the number one choice after a few trainings. So pick your favorite IPA symbols and get to work!

Workshop on Phonological Similarity @ NELS 40

In case you hadn’t heard, NELS 40 will take place at MIT, November 12-15, 2009. They kinda took this over at the last minute so things are progressing a little more slowly than usual, but they’ve just announced one of their two planned workshops: Phonological Similarity: Perceptual and Articulatory Bases and Links to Grammatical Mechanisms. Abstract deadline: August 21, 2009. is dead. Long live phonoloblog!

Greetings, all two readers of phonoloblog. It’s been a long, long while, and for that I apologize. I’ve been pretty busy with various things, like this, for instance. And while I was busy, I was caught with my pants down: my claim to the domain name expired, and before I could even become aware of it, this douchebag snatched it. If you count yourself among my friends, you will bombard this person with obscene messages until s/he relents. Or, you will convince me that I can live with,, or even just good ol’ — which is, after all, free as in beer.

Apologies (perhaps too late) to those of you who may have had your bookmarks and subscriptions set to Please use from now on, no matter what, and you should be fine.


I installed Windows 7 (RS) a couple of weeks ago and noticed that Microsoft’s default fonts for body text and headings –Calibri and Cambria, respectively– have been upgraded to include phonetic symbols and allow diacritic stacking. As far as I can tell, they’re now as IPA-friendly as Times New Roman (cf. earlier post) and perhaps better: in Powerpoint, where Calibri is the default, both superscripts and subscripts finally stack nicely (unlike with Times New Roman).

Hayes: Introductory Phonology

Introductory Phonology

Bruce Hayes

Blackwell Textbooks in Linguistics

Accessible, succinct, and including numerous student-friendly features, this introductory textbook offers an exceptional foundation to the field for those who are coming to it for the first time.

  • Provides an ideal first course book in phonology, written by a renowned phonologist
  • Developed and tested in the classroom through years of experience and use
  • Emphasizes analysis of phonological data, placing this in its scientific context, and explains the relevant methodology
  • Guides students through the larger questions of what phonological patterns reveal about language
  • Includes numerous course-friendly features, including multi-part exercises and annotated suggestions for further reading at the end of each chapter

Introduction to Natural Phonology

[ Via LINGUIST List. ]

Introduction to Natural Phonology

July 6-10, 2009
Porto, Portugal
João Veloso

This course will be an introduction to the main ideas of Natural Phonology, a theory first proposed by David Stampe (1969, 1979), and later developed by Stampe and Donegan (1978, 1979, 1983, 2004) and Donegan (1993, 1995, 1996, etc.). Reference will be made, whenever appropriate, to other followers of the theory, like Churma, Dressler, Dziubalska, Hurch, Nathan, Rhodes, and Wojcik.

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A message from the LINGUIST List

Unlike phonoloblog, the LINGUIST List has a staff of students who require funding to keep list going. Please consider contributing a little something during their current fund drive. The message from Anthony Aristar copied below clarifies. Since this message was sent out a few days ago, the fund drive has gotten around $20,000 closer to their goal of $60,000. But more is still needed!

Here’s the quick link to donate:

Dear Listowners:

As you know, the LINGUIST List provides you with Listserv facilities without any charge. We do this because we feel that it is important that there be no barriers to the free interchange of information between those interested in language and linguistics, and we know that many of you have no access to good Listserv software, or to any place to archive their postings. We’re genuinely happy to help with this.

However, as you also probably know, running the LINGUIST site, with its servers and expensive software — four Unix servers, five Oracle databases, Coldfusion server, Listserv, map server and Java and PHP servers — is not cheap. The only way we can provide these services free is to do what we do now, and have an annual fund drive.

This has been a bad year for everyone and everything… And our fund drive is no exception. We are only halfway to our goal of $60,000, and the fund drive has been running for almost three weeks. Frankly, we are getting worried… So we’re writing this message to ask if you would be generous enough to send a call to your members — if you haven’t done this already — asking them to contribute to our drive, so that the services we have been providing, for free, we can continue to provide… for free.

You know that we send you messages like this very rarely. We don’t want to bother you. And we’d like to emphasize that there is no obligation on your part to do as we are asking. This is entirely voluntary.

But if you would be willing to help us, and ask your list-members to contribute, we’d be very grateful. Our donation page is:

Thank you very much!

Anthony Aristar
Moderator, LINGUIST

Yuki & Yokuts

I’m pretty sure that the readership of this blog (all 2 of you) is a proper subset of the readership of Language Log, but just in case you were absent one of these two days, my UCSD emeritus colleague Yuki Kuroda passed away late last month. I’ve since spent a little time (with several other folks in my department) working on a website for Yuki, with his obituary, a comprehensive bibliography, many remembrances, and more.

And I’ve also spent time thinking about Yuki’s classic 1967 contribution to phonological theory, Yawelmani Phonology. (Click the link — it’s a new $20 MIT Press Classics Series edition.) The Yawelmani variety of Yokuts is now more commonly/correctly referred to as Yowulmne; since neither name can be found in the Ethnologue, I will henceforth refer to it as Yokuts. (Plus, I think that looks and sounds cooler next to Yuki’s name in the title of this post.)

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Melody vs. structure in phonological representations

Melody vs. structure in phonological representations

Session at the 40th Poznan Linguistic Meeting. 2-5 September. Gniezno, Poland.

Traditionally, melodic primitives are linked with structural positions, with the implication that melody specifies phonetic properties such as voicing or place of articulation, whereas the structural positions themselves are devoid of phonetic content. This distinction between melody and structure appears to be widely accepted, even among ‘phonetically based’ approaches to phonology. For example, Steriade (1997) presents a cue-based account of laryngeal neutralizations in various languages, which is presented largely as a refutation of a ‘licensing by prosody’ (e.g. Ito 1986) approach that relates the presence or absence of laryngeal contrasts to questions of syllable structure. Recent proposals in element theory (Jensen 1994, Pochtrager 2006) replace melodic properties with structural configurations, but nevertheless assume that melody and structure are different representational species.

This session seeks to examine the underlying assumption of a melody/structure dichotomy. We are particularly interested in the following questions. Are ‘licensing by cue’ and ‘licensing by prosody’ mutually exclusive. Can we really separate melody and structure? If not, how do melody and structure interact? Is structure really phonetically bare? If not, what defines it?

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Data and Theory: Papers in Phonology in Celebration of Charles W. Kisseberth

I’ve made it no secret here that Kenstowicz & Kisseberth (1979) is my favorite phonology textbook of all time, and I would even go so far as to say that Chuck Kisseberth is my favorite phonologist of all time. That’s why I was very pleased to see this LINGUIST List announcement today, the title of which rather understatedly offers the table of contents for Language Sciences, Vol. 31, Nos. 2&3 (2009), a special issue edited by Kenstowicz in honor of Kisseberth. Here’s the editor’s preface:

Charles (Chuck) Kisseberth occupies a unique position in phonology (comparable to the late Ken Hale’s in syntax). He has conducted trailblazing research at both the theoretical and descriptive levels, treating the two as different aspects of the same grand enterprise. His many papers and books over his 40 year career are commonly regarded as masterpieces of phonological analysis with mountains of data to support each step of the argument. Many of the most intriguing data sets that have continued to occupy our field’s attention were either originally discovered by or brought to our general attention by Chuck: Yawelmani vowels and syllable structure, Klamath global rules, Tonkawa derivational constraints, Chimwini sentential phonology, Bantu migrating tones. His early work on rule ordering, conspiracies, and derivational constraints diagnosed serious problems with the strictly bottom-up, derivational model of classical generative phonology. This fundamental insight was given its proper due only some 25 years later with the development of Optimality Theory. Chuck has been an active contributor to the OT literature with his Optimal Domains model of autosegmental phonology (in collaboration with Jennifer Cole and Farida Cassimjee). Chuck has been equally successful as a teacher and mentor. He has directed over forty doctoral dissertations — many by native speaker linguists describing their languages for the first time. Our 1979 textbook Generative Phonology: Description and Theory was the table at which a whole generation of linguists were served their first taste of phonology. We hope that the studies presented here provide him some recompense for his inspiration, guidance, and friendship over the years.

The TOC is below the fold; if you have access, check out the issue itself here.

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Seminar Approaches to word accent in Leiden – April 2, 2009

Seminar: Approaches to word accent (word stress)

Organized by Rob Goedemans, Jeroen van de Weijer and Marc van Oostendorp (Leiden University)

April 2, 2009; Leiden University, Lipsius Building (, room 235c

14.00 – 16:00 Harry van der Hulst (University of Connecticut): A new theory of word accentual structures (abstract below)
16:00 – Comments by Marc van Oostendorp and Jeroen van de Weijer, followed by discussion

Participation in this seminar is free for all. If possible, please announce your intention to come with

A New Theory of Word Accentual Structures
Harry van der Hulst
University of Connecticut

The key insight of standard metrical theory (Liberman and Prince 1977, Vergnaud and Halle 1978, Hayes 1980, Halle and Vergnaud 1987, Idsardi 1990) is that syllables (or perhaps subsyllabic constituents such as skeletal positions, rhymes or moras) of words are organized into a layer of foot structure, each foot having a head. Primary accent is then derived by organizing the feet into a word structure in which one foot is the head. The head of the head foot, being a head at both levels, expresses primary accent. In this view, rhythmic accents are assigned first, while primary accent is regarded as the promotion of one of these rhythmic accents. In this seminar, I defend a different
formal theory of word accent. The theory is non-metrical in that the account of primary accent location is not based on iterative foot structure. The theory separates the representation of primary and rhythmic accents, the idea being that the latter are accounted for with reference to the primary accent location. This means that rhythmic structure is either assigned later (in a derivational sense),
or governed by constraints that are subordinate to the constraints that govern primary accent (as is possible in the approach presented in Prince and Smolensky 1993). The present approach has been called ‘a primary-accent first theory’ (see van der Hulst 1984, 1990, 1992, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000a, 2002, 2009, van der Hulst and Kooij 1994, van der Hulst and Lahiri 1988 for earlier statements; see web page below for these and other references). I will demonstrate the workings of the theory using a variety of examples from bounded and unbounded (weight-sensitive and insensitive systems) taken from the StressTyp database developed by Rob Goedemans and Van der Hulst (

Monosyllables — from Phonology to Typology

[ Via LINGUIST List. ]

Monosyllables — from Phonology to Typology

This conference is meant as the starting point of a long-term research project which aims at bringing out crosslinguistic regularities in the synchronic grammar and diachronic evolution of monosyllables. The conference brings together scholars of many schools of thought to exchange their views on monosyllable from as many angles as possible.

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Workshop on Pharyngeals & Pharyngealisation

[ Via LINGUIST List. ]

International Workshop on Pharyngeals & Pharyngealisation: 26-27 March, 2009

Co-organised by the Centre for Research in Linguistics and Language Science (CRiLLS), Newcastle University and Praxiling Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Université Montpellier III

The final programme for our International Workshop on Pharyngeals & Pharyngealisation to be held at Newcastle University (UK) is now available. To access the workshop programme, please click here.

To find out more about the workshop and to register, please click here.

The deadline for early registration is the 22nd of February.

We look forward to seeing you there,

Ghada Khattab and the Organising Committee.

Ghada Khattab
Speech and Language Sciences Section
King George VI bldg
Newcastle University
Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7RU

Child Phonology Conference 2009

[ Via LINGUIST List. ]

Child Phonology Conference 2009

Call for Papers

The Child Phonology conference is held yearly. Topics addressed include current research paradigms designed to consider typical child speech acquisition and developmental speech disorders. Attendees include academic researchers from the disciplines of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Linguistics, and Psychology. The conference draws new academic researchers and senior researchers at an international level. It provides a unique opportunity for junior researchers to talk about their work with knowledgeable and interested senior researchers. As well, senior researchers receive feedback on new projects. The conference emphasis is on presentation of new data-based research.

If you would like to present a paper or poster at ChPhon09, please send an e-mail message to Barbara L. Davis with the following information:

1. Authors’ names in the order in which you would like them to be listed in the program
2. Title of presentation
3. An abstract (not more than 175 words)
4. Your preference of presentation format (paper or poster)

Please respond to the ChPhon 09 call for papers by March 15th, 2009. We will announce the proposals that have been accepted (with a tentative presentation schedule) by April 1st.

Seventeenth Manchester Phonology Meeting


Seventeenth Manchester Phonology Meeting

28-30 MAY 2009

Deadline for abstracts: 2nd March 2009

Special session: ‘The History of Phonological Theory’ featuring John Goldsmith, D. Robert Ladd, and Tobias Scheer, and with a contribution from Morris Halle. The session will be introduced by Jacques Durand.

Held in Manchester, UK. Organised through a collaboration of phonologists at the University of Edinburgh, the University of Manchester, the Universite Toulouse-Le Mirail and elsewhere.

Conference website:

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PhD research assistantship

The Department of Linguistics at the University of Alberta is inviting applications for a PhD student research assistantship position, beginning September 2009, on exemplar-based approaches to phonology.

A fundamental question of linguistic theory is how spoken language is encoded in the mental lexicon. The standard view, that phonological patterns are learned over symbolic representations, has increasingly come into question, as failing to provide a natural account of frequency effects and gradient sound change. An alternative view is that words and phrases are stored as clusters of exemplars, including detailed, individuated memories of the speech signal. Speech processing, under this view, involves massive comparison of exemplars, with phonological patterns (as well as low-level patterns of gradient phonetic variation) emerging as abstractions over the raw data. 

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6th Old World Conference in Phonology (OCP6)

[ Via LINGUIST List ]

The department of Linguistics and English Language at the University of Edinburgh is proud to announce that the sixth Old World Conference in Phonology (OCP6) will take place in Edinburgh from 22nd to 24th January 2009. OCP6 is organised by a group of phonologists at Edinburgh, and it follows in the line of previous OCP conferences, which have been held in Leiden, Tromsø, Budapest, Rhodes and Toulouse.

Sixth Old World Conference in Phonology (.pdf of program)
22-24 January 2009

Invited Speakers:
B. Elan Dresher (University of Toronto)
Jennifer Hay (University of Canterbury)
Marc van Oostendorp (Meertens Instituut & Leiden University)

New Intro. Phonology Text

Nathan phonology text cover
A cognitive grammar introduction
Geoffrey S. Nathan
Wayne State University

Cognitive Linguistics in Practice 3

2008. x, 171 pp.
Hardbound – In stock
978 90 272 1907 7 / EUR 105.00 / USD 158.00

Paperback – In stock
978 90 272 1908 4 / EUR 25.00 / USD 37.95

e-Book – Available from e-book platforms
978 90 272 9088 5 / EUR 105.00 / USD 158.00

This textbook introduces the reader to the field of phonology, from allophones to faithfulness and exemplars. It assumes no prior knowledge of the field, and includes a brief review chapter on phonetics. It is written within the framework of Cognitive Linguistics, but covers a wide range of historical and contemporary theories, from the Prague School to Optimality Theory. While many examples are based on American and British English, there are also discussions of some aspects of French and German colloquial speech and phonological analysis problems from many other languages around the world. In addition to the basics of phoneme theory, features, and morphophonemics there are chapters on casual speech, first and second language acquisition and historical change. A final chapter covers a number of issues in contemporary phonological theory, including some of the classic debates in Generative Phonology (rule ordering, abstractness, ‘derivationalism’) and proposals for usage-based phonologies.

Tenure track phonology position at UCLA

Date Posted: November 24, 2008

Job Description: Subject to final administrative and budgetary approval, the UCLA Department of Linguistics will be conducting a faculty search to fill a tenure-track position, rank Assistant Professor, in the field of phonology. The starting date is July 1, 2009.

Applicants are requested to send the following materials in hard copy: CV, cover letter or other documents describing research and teaching, and sample research papers to the address provided below. Please also indicate where members of the Search Committee can download any research papers that are available electronically but not included in hard copy. Applicants should request three letters of recommendation to be sent from individuals familiar with their work. Lastly, please indicate whether or not you will be attending the January meeting of the Linguistic Society of America, where interviews will be conducted. Questions about the position may be directed to the search committee chair, Bruce Hayes (

The University of California is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.

Application Deadline:
December 15, 2008

Application Address:
Phonology Search Committee
Dept. of Linguistics
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1543

Studies on the Phonetics and Phonology of Glides

In case you missed it, there’s a special section of Lingua vol. 118, no. 12 on the phonetics and phonology of glides, guest edited by Ioana Chitoran and Andrew Nevins, which “developed from presentations at the workshop ‘Towards a phonetic and phonological typology of glides’, organized as part of the 2006 Annual Meeting of the Linguistic Society of America, in Albuquerque, New Mexico”. Check it out.

Phonology at UConn

[ The following is posted on behalf of Harry van der Hulst. ]

Dear Colleagues,

The Linguistics Department at the University of Connecticut (‘UConn’) yearly admits about five students to its graduate program, providing them with financial support (cf. below). We would like to bring to your attention that we strongly welcome applications from prospective students with an interest in phonology.

We characterize our approach as a formal phonology with solid cognitive and phonetic grounding. Our interests and expertise in phonology range from phonological theory in general (segmental and syllable structure, stress, vowel harmony etc.) to specific areas such as sign phonology, historical phonology, acquisition of phonology, loan phonology, syntax-phonology interface and phonology-phonetic interface theories.

Students should be prepared, during their first year, to take two introductory courses in each of the following areas: syntax, semantics, phonology and acquisition, before turning to their specific areas of specialization in the second year.

Please visit our web site to learn more about the department, the areas of interest and our faculty.

Please go to for information about the application procedure. Also, if necessary, write to Željko Bošković or Susi Wurmbrand for additional information or contact me for specific questions about the phonology program.

— Harry van der Hulst

Lenition and Fortition

Lenition and Fortition (Studies in Generative Grammar 99, Mouton de Gruyter), ed. by Joaquim Brandão de Carvalho, Tobias Scheer, and Philippe Ségéral.

There are books on tone, coronals, the internal structure of segments, vowel harmony, and a couple of other topics in phonology. This book aims to fill the gap for Lenition and Fortition, which is one of the first phenomena that was addressed by phonologists in the 19th century, and ever since contributed to phonological thinking. It is certainly one of the core phenomena that is found in the phonology of natural language: together with assimilations, the other important family of phenomena, Lenition and Fortition constitute the heart of what phonology can do to sound.

The book aims to provide an overall treatment of the question in its many aspects: historical, typological, synchronic, diachronic, empirical and theoretical. Various current approaches to phonology are represented.

The book is structured into three parts: 1) properties and behaviour of Lenition/Fortition, 2) lenition patterns in particular languages and language families, 3) how Lenition/Fortition work.

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Syllable Structure: Duanmu

Syllable Structure: The Limits of Variation, by San Duanmu (Oxford University Press, 2008)

This book looks at the range of possible syllables in human languages. The syllable is a central notion in phonology but basic questions about it remain poorly understood and phonologists are divided on even the most elementary issues. For example, the word city has been syllabified as ci-ty (the ‘maximal onset’ analysis), cit-y (the ‘no-open-lax-V’ analysis), and cit-ty (the ‘geminate C’ analysis).

San Duanmu explores and clarifies these and many other related issues through an in-depth analysis of entire lexicons of several languages. Some languages, such as Standard and Shanghai Chinese, have fairly simple syllables, yet a minimal difference in syllable structure has lead to a dramatic difference in tonal behavior. Other languages, such as English, German, and Jiarong, have long consonant clusters and have been thought to require very large syllables: San Duanmu shows that the actual syllable structure in these languages is much simpler. He bases his analyses on quantitative data, paying equal attention to generalizations that are likely to be universal. He shows that a successful analysis of the syllable must take into account several theories, including feature theory, the Weight-Stress Principle, the size of morpheme inventory, and the metrical representation of the syllable.

San Duanmu’s clear exposition will appeal to phonologists and advanced students and will provide a new benchmark in syllabic and prosodic analysis. He also offers an answer to the intriguing question: how different can human languages be?

[ Via LINGUIST List. ]

Contrast in Phonology

Contrast in Phonology: Theory, Perception, Acquisition
(Phonology and Phonetics 13, Mouton de Gruyter, September 2008.)

ed. by Peter Avery, B. Elan Dresher, and Keren Rice

[ Via LINGUIST List. ]

This book takes contrast, an issue that has been central to phonological theory since Saussure, as its central theme, making explicit its importance to phonological theory, perception, and acquisition. The volume brings together a number of different contemporary approaches to the theory of contrast, including chapters set within more abstract representation-based theories, as well as chapters that focus on functional phonetic theories and perceptual constraints. This book will be of interest to phonologists, phoneticians, psycholinguists, researchers in first and second language acquisition, and cognitive scientists interested in current thinking on this exciting topic.

Phonetics and Phonology in Iberia 2009

[ Via LINGUIST List ]

Phonetics and Phonology in Iberia

PaPI 2009 Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

17-18 June 2009

Satellite Workshops

19 June 2009

The fourth PaPI Conference will be hosted by the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain, from 17 to 18 June, 2009. Phonetics and Phonology in Iberia (PaPI) is an international conference aiming to bring together researchers interested in all areas of phonetics and phonology, with a special focus on the relationship between the two.

The Conference aims at providing an interdisciplinary forum in Europe for discussion of phonetics and/or phonology and their related areas- such as language acquisition, language variation and change, speech pathology, and speech technology, the phonology-phonetics interface, and laboratory phonology

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Assistant Professor, Middle Eastern Languages and Linguistics, Northwestern University

(apologies for cross-postings)

Pending final approval, the Department of Linguistics invites applications from scholars with expertise and research interests in any aspect of Middle Eastern languages and linguistics. We are seeking a Ph.D. in any subfield of linguistics or a related discipline who has analyzed primary data (e.g.,
experimental data, field data, or natural language corpora) in order to address theoretical issues with a focus on the languages of the Middle East, including but not limited to Arabic, Hebrew, Turkish and Persian. This is a tenure-eligible position at the rank of Assistant Professor, to begin in fall 2009. The Linguistics Department is participating in a multi-departmental search; thus there is the opportunity for a joint hire with another department.

Applicants should submit a curriculum vita, a letter describing research and teaching interests, two writing samples, and three letters of reference. Review of applications will begin on October 15th, 2008.

E-mail inquiries should be directed to

The web page for the Department is:

Please send all materials to:

Middle East Faculty Search Committee
Department of Linguistics
Northwestern University
2016 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208-4090
(Tel: 847-491-7020, Fax: 847-491-3770)

Letters of reference can be sent electronically (to the email above), or by mail (to the mailing address above) by October 15, 2008.

Northwestern University is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer, and applications from minority and women candidates are especially welcome.


Faithful readers: the e-mail barrage about phonoloblog being down the past few days has been overwhelming. I can’t possibly reply to it all, so I’m just going to apologize here to each and every one of you for depriving you of your phonolofix. I can’t promise it will never happen again, but I can assure you that I have no intention of allowing it to happen again…

OK, I’m kidding. No, not about that last bit — it’s true that I have no such intention — but about the e-mail barrage. Exactly two people wrote (evidence for binarity?), and neither one of them was Ed (which was surprising, because he has apparently not had anything better to do). I guess the remaining mass of readers relies on the RSS feed and don’t visit the blog directly, so they didn’t even notice we were down. (Should we post more often? Nah, this isn’t Language Log, just all things phonology.)

Anyway, the deal is that the security of our server ( was somehow compromised by comment spam and the like. This came to the attention of the systems security folks at UCSD, who brought it to the attention of the Linguistics computing staff — big thanks and props to Ezra van Everbroeck and even more to Marc Silver for doing what it took to bring things back online quickly and safely. If you notice anything that doesn’t seem to have survived the change-over intact, please let me know and I’ll take care of it if I can (or I’ll very politely ask Marc and Ezra for help if I can’t).

Workshop on Phonological Voicing Variation

Location: Amsterdam and Leiden

Dates: September 11 and 12, 2008

The phonetic difference between b and p, or z and s has been described as a difference in (timing of) vocal fold vibration, but it well-known that there are subtle differences in the precise implementation of ‘voicing’, as well as its function in the phonologies of the world’s languages. This workshop brings together researchers who study the phenomenon from a variety of perspectives, both theoretical and empirical, and both synchronic and diachronic. What’s the right phonological interpretation of voicing? How does it interact with other phonological features? How do phonological processes involving voice — such as intervocalic voicing, devoicing and voicing assimilation — interact with other phonological processes?

The workshop takes place in Amsterdam and Leiden. The last talk is a Dutch-style inaugural address, followed by a party, which is open to participants in the workshop. Participation is free; but please announce your presence beforehand to

The full programme and other details are here.

Sixth Old World Conference in Phonology


Sixth Old World Conference in Phonology

22-24 JANUARY 2009
Deadline for abstracts: 15th September 2008

Invited speakers:
B. Elan Dresher (University of Toronto)
Jennifer Hay (University of Canterbury)
Marc van Oostendorp (Meertens Instituut & Leiden University)

The conference will be preceded by a workshop on subsegmental phonology on 21st January, organised by Bert Botma (Leiden) and Patrick Honeybone (Edinburgh), with the title “the Privative Project: is it still worth pursuing?” Those attending the conference will be very welcome to attend the workshop, too. (Further details of the workshop are to follow.)

Conference website:

OCP homepage:

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Do phonologists mispell "Tatamagouche"?

Hello, this is basically avoidance behavior, but I thought some of you might like to know…

“Tatamagouche” is a small town in Nova Scotia (,_Nova_Scotia). The similar “Tatamagouchi” appears in SPE (Chomsky and Halle 1968, 114) as an example word, as part of the data justifying a phonological rule that assigns secondary stress in long words.

A Google search on “Tatamagouchi” yields mostly works in phonological theory addressing English stress assignment. I conjecture, therefore, that Chomsky and Halle made a spelling mistake in SPE (or used an archaic spelling) which has since been carried forward by other phonologists, myself included. Cheers, Bruce Hayes

GLOW 32 cfp

GLOW 32 will take place in Nantes, France, April 15-18, 2009. The general call for papers is here; the theme is “On the Architecture of the Grammar: Y, if and how”. Danny Fox and Paul Smolensky are the invited speakers. There will be three workshops: one on acquisition, one on semantics, and (of course) one on phonology, the theme of which is “The lexicon (if any)”. Call deadline: November 1, 2008.

[ Via LINGUIST List. ]

Congress of Phonetics and Phonology (Brazil)

[ Via LINGUIST List. ]

Dear colleague,

We would like to invite you to the 10th National Congress / 4th International Congress of Phonetics and Phonology, which will take place during the period of November 24 – 26 (2008), at Universidade Federal Fluminense (Niterói, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil).

This event is sponsored by the Brazilian Society of Phonetics and it counts with the support of several national and international phoneticians and phonologists.

The general theme of the congress is ”Phonetics and Phonology: Theory and Application”, but we also expect the following sub-themes: (1) Phonetics and Phonology within current theoretical perspectives; (2) Phonetics and Phonology in teaching: Literacy and the teaching of foreign languages; (3) Phonetics and Phonology in linguistic research: Prosody, description of languages, and diachronic phonetic and phonological processes; (4) Interdisciplinary Phonetics and Phonology: Speech pathology and speech synthesis and recognition; and (5) Experimental Phonetics: Current research.

We hope you will be able to participate and/or publicize this event to colleagues and students. For more information: (1) visit the site of the Brazilian Society of Phonetics; (2) e-mail; (3) or phone 21-2522-8881 or 21-9334-5457.

Profª Drª Mirian da Matta Machado
Presidente da SBF

These vowels could save your life

Daniela Isac and Charles Reiss have recently published I-Language: An Introduction to Linguistics as Cognitive Science, which apparently has more phonology in it than your typical textbook of this type. (As the book description notes: “Contains phonological parallels to familiar syntactic arguments”.) There’s also a companion website with various resources, including a great page demonstrating Turkish vowels (previously noted by Mr. Verb). The vowels are arranged in a cube-like format that may be familiar to many of us. (This is the way I learned about Turkish vowels from Jorge Hankamer, and it clearly had a lasting effect on me.)

The publisher’s website also includes this sample chapter (Chapter 1, “What is I-language?” — a good place to start), which begins with an autobiographical story about how Charles used his knowledge of Turkish vowels and vowel harmony to save himself and a friend from a near-death experience (hey, read it yourself).

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Upcoming phonology workshops in Germany

Via LINGUIST List (follow the links):

  1. Prosodic Alignment at the Word Level
    • Nov. 20-21, 2008
    • Mannheim, Germany
    • This specialized workshop is on alignment, with focus on word-internal morphological and prosodic constituents.
    • Deadline for abstracts: July 1, 2008
  2. Insertions and Deletions in Speech
    • Mar. 4, 2009
    • Osnabrück, Germany
    • This workshop will provide a forum for phonologists, phoneticians, and morphologists to discuss the forms and functions of deletions and insertions found cross-linguistically, as well as their consequences for phonological systems.
    • Call Deadline: Sept. 1, 2008
  3. Rhythm Beyond the Word
    • March 4-6, 2008
    • Osnabrück, Germany
    • The goal of [this workshop] is to bring together researchers who focus on the role of rhythm in various subdomains of linguistics. We invite contributions from scholars working in morphology, phonology and syntax, psycho- and neurolinguistics, aphasiology and language acquisition.
    • Call Deadline: Sept. 1, 2008

one-year position or part-time position at UCLA

In case you haven’t seen this ad on Linguist List:

The UCLA Department of Linguistics is seeking to fill either a one-year, full-time lecturer position or a series of part-time teaching positions in the area of Phonology for the 2008-2009 academic year.

The one-year, full-time lecturer position would involve teaching 5 courses (over 3 quarters), including two offerings of introductory undergraduate phonology, one of intermediate undergraduate phonology, and two other courses to be negotiated. Salary is approximately $50,000 for the academic year.

If we are unable to fill the one-year lecturer position, we will seek to hire one or more instructors for the following courses: introductory undergraduate phonology (twice: Fall Quarter 2008, Winter Quarter 2009) and intermediate undergraduate phonology (Spring Quarter 2009, could also be taught in Winter). Pay level is approximately $8,000 per course.

Please send applications in electronic form to Prof. Bruce Hayes [to reduce his spam, I’ll ask you to find Bruce’s web page and get his e-mail address from there–the phonologist Bruce Hayes is not to be confused with the one-man band or swimmer of the same name]. Applications should include a cover letter, CV, and whatever information the applicant may wish to include as evidence of a strong teaching record (these may be course evaluation data, course materials, and/or recommendation letters). Please specify whether you are interested in the full-time lecturer position or the part-time position (or both); for the part-time position, please indicate which course(s) and quarter(s).

UCLA is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer and has a strong commitment to the achievement of excellence and diversity among its faculty and staff.

etsi este!

A crucial point in Well’s argumentation against static approaches to alternation comes from Latin. Interestingly, his point seems to argue at the same time against rule ordering, although neither Wells nor Goldsmith mention this point.

In Latin, pat-tus becomes passus and met-tus becomes messus. This is very difficult to understand in a ‘static’ way (Wells even calls this ‘fatal’, as Goldsmith points out), for instance by only using output constraints. We cannot invoke a constraint *ts and/or a constraint *st, because words such as etsi and este stay unaffected. Only /t/’s which are adjacent to underlying /t/’s turn into [s]. As far as I can see, the only OT mechanism ever proposed which could do this kind of analysis are two-level constraints (which I don’t think anybody is seriously working with).

On the other hand, we can deal with this phenomenon in a ‘dynamic’ way, by positing rules of the following type:

  • t->s / _ + t
  • t->s / t + _

But we can only do this if we do not order these rules, but let them apply simultaneously. As soon as we order the rules they do not work, or the etsi/este problem arises again. That is the reason why the two-level constraint approach to this is the only one which works as far as I can see: Sympathy, Stratal OT, Comparative Markedness, OT-CC, etc. are all too ‘derivational’.

There also is no clear representational solution (changing a geminate /t/ to a geminate [s], leaving singletons unaffected), since it seems to be a crucial condition that there is a morpheme boundary between the /t/’s.

These thus are very important data, if they are real. Does anybody know about this? Has anybody ever tried to analyze this alternation?

Primacy of the base

This is a follow up to a quick comment I left in the Reading Group thread. I am not entirely up on the history of the field, so maybe these points are trivial. If so, excuse me.

I found the discussion of rule ordering in section 5 to be interesting. There seem to be a couple of issues that popped up with regard to rule ordering in the 1940s. One is historicity–how seriously are we going to take the time/motion metaphor? Another is the issue of primacy–if a, b, and c are derivable from one source, which one, if any, is primary? And a third is Harris’ claim that extrinsic rule ordering masks natural relationships between classes of derivations.

The first and last issues seem especially interesting after the Mr. Verb Kerfluffle. One of the things that was suggested there was that if you have rules, rule ordering is natural. Goldsmith shows that for some phonologists in the 1940s, rule ordering wasn’t a natural step at all. And it seems to me that a lot of phonology after SPE was concerned with addressing that last bit–making the rule ordering natural (there might be something about the Elsewhere Condition here, but I don’t feel qualified to talk about it).

What put me in mind of the richness of the base (RoB) was the middle part about primacy. RoB is the OT claim that the set of possible inputs to the grammar is universal, thus getting rid of the issue of primacy. In the hypothetical case of a, b, and c the grammar has to make sure that whatever the input /a/, /b/, /c/, etc., nothing maps to b in an environment where b is disallowed. Although RoB doesn’t rule out the use of archiphonemes (or underspecification) it does make them seem unneccesary since you can construct a grammar that will always map a and b to c in the appropriate context for example.

Automatic alternations and conspiracies

Last week I suggested some of us read and discuss John Goldsmith‘s recent paper in Phonology 25.1 (“Generative phonology in the late 1940s“, doi:10.1017/S0952675708001395). I’m not really sure what’s the best way to go about this, so I’ll just suggest the following: anyone interested can pick a point of discussion and write a post about it, and anyone interested in responding to that point can comment specifically on that post.

OK, now that I’ve written that out, that just sounds like plain old blogging. I guess what I’m trying to suggest is that we don’t limit the discussion to just one post and its associated comments: if the point of discussion that you want to pick is sufficiently different from what’s already been posted, then I encourage you to start a new post rather than to comment on the old one. We can maybe tie all the threads together later.

OK, that still just sounds like plain old blogging. Forget I ever said anything. Let’s just move on to my (first?) suggested point of discussion, focusing on §2 of the paper (pp. 40-42 of the published version, pp. 4-6 of the preprint).

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Acoustics Week in Canada

[ Via LINGUIST List. ]

Acoustics Week in Canada

Acoustics Week in Canada 2008, the annual conference of the Canadian Acoustical Association, will be held in Vancouver, British Columbia from 6 to 8 October 2008. This is the premier Canadian acoustical event of the year, and is being held in beautiful, vibrant Vancouver, making it an event that you do not want to miss. The conference will include three days of plenary lectures, technical sessions on a wide range of areas of acoustics, the CAA Annual General Meeting, an equipment exhibition, and the conference banquet and other social events.

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phonoloblog reading group

In my last post I mentioned wanting to read the following paper just published in Phonology:

Generative phonology in the late 1940s (pp 37 – 59)
John A. Goldsmith

I’ve now read it, and I’d like to suggest that the two or three people who might be reading these words read it, too, so we can have a little online discussion about it. If you don’t have access to the journal, you can find a pre-print here (a quick skim reveals it to be about 95% identical in content to the published version). You might also want to heed the encouragement that Goldsmith offers in the next-to-last paragraph:

Needless to say, I encourage the reader to read Wells’ paper for himself, and to judge whether it is not a cautious and careful exegesis of the benefits that can be reaped from derivational analysis, aimed at an audience that was leery of confusing synchronic and diachronic analysis. As a phonologist working at the beginning of the 21st century, I would argue that we should not characterise the work of linguists such as Wells, Harris and Hockett as the last gasp of a dying structuralism, but as a body of scholarship out of which generative phonology was a natural development.
Surely this conclusion is reasonable and, ultimately, not at all surprising. My admiration for generative phonology is in no way diminished by the realisation that its key ideas were being considered and developed by the mid 1940s. It is, after all, the ideas that matter to us now.

(And if that JSTOR link doesn’t work for ya, try this.)

OK, we’ll reconvene sometime next week. I’ll plan to start, but if anyone feels like chiming in before I do, please feel free.

Call for Papers: Workshop on Phonological Variation in Voicing

For most phonologists, the process of Final Devoicing, which we can observe in languages such as German, Dutch, Yiddish, Russian, Polish, Catalan and Turkish, did not deserve a lot of attention. One would write a rule of approximately the shape [-son] → [-voice] / __ #/$, and declare the issue resolved.

However, recent years have seen a revived interest in phenomena surrounding devoicing, for a variety of reasons. One of them are developments in the formalism, like that of OT. For one thing, it appears much easier to view devoicing as a rule than as the result of a constraint. There is no consensus yet as to what the constraint should be in OT (e.g. a general constraint against voicing *Voiced, dominated by a faithfulness constraint for onsets, a conjunction of NoCoda with *Voiced, a positional markedness constraint, etc.) and further, Final Devoicing is one of the most famous cases of the so-called Too-Many-Solutions Problem: why would the relevant constraint always be satisfied by deletion of the voicing feature?

Further, lots of empirical work has come out which does not fit very easily with classical views of phonology (including most of OT). First, we find final devoicing both in languages in which the relevant contrast is indeed [voice] (such as Catalan), but also in languages in which it rather involves [spread glottis] (like German), which raises the question what these phenomena have in common from a phonological point of view. Secondly, there is a large body of work showing that final devoicing in many cases is not neutralizing completely, but that there are phonetic traces of voicing in the acoustic signal, and that listeners to some extent can detect these traces at least in experimental circumstances. Thirdly, it turns out that whether or not a given stem is subject to final devoicing is to a large extent predictable given lexical statistics.

Finally, it has become clear over the years that devoicing interacts with many other phonological processes in (varieties of) European languages, such as voicing assimilation, but also lexical tone. It has been claimed as well that certain dialects of French, for instance, have developed interesting phonological phenomena as a result of contact with West-Germanic final devoicing systems.

What is the place of devoicing and other voicing phenomena in phonological theory? Which phenomena need to be accounted for by our theory? Which phenomena CAN be understood by it? This will be the topic of a workshop at the Meertens Instituut in Amsterdam on September 11, 2008, and the University of Leiden on September 12, 2008. The workshop will end in a very big party. Participation (including the party) is free for all readers of Phonoloblog. Invited speakers will be Harry van der Hulst (University of Connecticut) and Ben Hermans (Meertens Instituut).

Please submit an abstract (2 pages max; does not need to be anonymous; pdf file) to Deadline: June 28.

Internets anonymous

There are a few things that Eric and I disagree on, one of them being the merits of Rush–I mean, seriously Eric, how can you listen to that crap. Another thing we disagree on appears to be whether it’s OK to argue phonology anonymously on the internets. In the Opacity Kerfluffle chez Mr. Verb, Eric got miffed at Cassaday whatshisorhername for not coming out of the shadows:

I was apparently inappropriately offended at Cassaday’s combination of willingness to be just as nasty as I was and unwillingness to be identified.

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Hold your theory still so I can stomp on it, OK?

I’m clearly not above fighting on the internets, even with folks who choose not to reveal their true identities while making flippant remarks about the vices and virtues of competing theoretical frameworks. I’m referring, of course, to the discussion with Mr. Verb & friends that I initiated here, with the remainder of the discussion on Mr. Verb’s blog (follow the links in the comments section of my post).

In the fourth part of his response, Mr. Verb correctly points out that I started the nastiness with this remark (emphasis added to the quoted “quip”):

In my view, it requires a lot of (willful) ignorance of a huge amount of important work in the 70s and 80s to think that OT doesn’t make significant progress in many areas (duplication, conspiracies, top-down and bottom-up effects, the emergence of the unmarked, …) where SPE essentially foundered.

And I’m the first to admit that I continued in the same nasty vein in the comments sections of Mr. Verb’s responses to my four challenges, with particular vitriol reserved for a certain “Cassaday Rassmussen” (who is doubtless an extraordinarily cute though cheeky little devil, much like the sea otters s/he loves so much). I was apparently inappropriately offended at Cassaday’s combination of willingness to be just as nasty as I was and unwillingness to be identified. (I am somehow less offended by Mr. Verb’s anonymity, given the clues he leaves here and there that help to narrow the field of possibilities down considerably.)

ANYWAY, now that Mr. Verb’s multi-part response to my multi-part challenge is over (save for an appendix that promises to tie up some loose ends), I figured it was an appropriate time to summarize some of my thoughts on the matter and the episode, beyond making rabid remarks in the comments area of an anonymous blog. Read on (and comment, anonymously or not!) if you’re interested, navigate away (to youtube, for example) if you’re not.

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Phonological Opacity Effects in Optimality Theory

IULC Publications is pleased to announce the release of the 6th volume in its working papers series titled “Phonological Opacity Effects in Optimality Theory”, edited by Ashley W. Farris-Trimble and Daniel A. Dinnsen. This working papers series highlights the work of graduate students, faculty, and alumni of Indiana University. Information on ordering and the table of contents for this volume can be found at the IULC Publications website A number of other phonology-specific titles can also be found.

Myanmar and English phonemes

It has struck me over the past couple of weeks that the way news readers pronounce the ‘new’ name of Burma says something about English vowel phonemes. Most of them are incapable of pronouncing Myanmar with an initial nasal+glide (as I believe it’s supposed to be pronounced: Wikipedia entry). Instead what we hear is generally something along the lines of


Presumably, if the /ju/ sequence in English in words like ‘mute’ were biphonemic (as in, say, the Trager-Smith phonemicization), the /j/ would be freely combinable and /mja-/ would be easy. But it’s not. So we could guess that /ju/ is a unit phoneme (similar to /aɪ/, or even /u(w)/ and the palatal glide is an integral part of the phoneme and thus not separable to be combined with any random vowel that another language might need.
Anyway, just a random thought I wanted to post somewhere while the news was still current.

What's a theory to do?

I don’t read Mr. Verb regularly, but I really should. On occasion, he’ll slip into a “moment of theoretical linguistic seriousness” of the kind that we (well, I) attempt to maintain consistently here at phonoloblog (ahem). Case in point: a post from a couple months ago on phonological opacity, following up on a reader’s questions about something mentioned in passing in this post. (Hat-tip to Ed.) The post on opacity concludes:

In any monostratal theory (one without stages of derivation), getting these interactions is a huge problem. This isn’t the place to run through them, but some readers will be familiar with sympathy theory, comparative markedness, and so on. I heard one person sum it up this way a few years ago:

Opacity is ubiquitous in human language, and earlier theories of phonology could deal with it easily. It’s hard to see why those advantages have been abandoned for an approach that can’t handle opacity without lots of gymnastics, if at all, for benefits that don’t look all that great.

(I’m pretty sure that it’s safe to assume that “earlier theories of phonology” refers to serial, rule-based generative phonology in the SPE-and-subsequent-developments sense, and that “any monostratal theory (one without stages of derivation)” and “an approach that can’t handle opacity without lots of gymnastics, if at all” refers to Optimality Theory. Correct me if I’m wrong.)

I’m not going to contest the ubiquitousness of opacity in human language claim, having recently written an article assuming this to be true (appeared in Phonology 24.2, 217-259). I’ll also assume that we can all agree on the legitimacy of at least some examples of opacity, in the sense that we agree that such cases involve the interaction of synchronic phonological processes (pace Sanders on ‘synchronic’ and Green on ‘phonological’). But I would like to challenge Mr. Verb (and the quoted summer-upper) to defend (some of) the remaining claims, explicit and implicit, made in what I’ve quoted above. Here is a list of what I take those claims to be.

  1. OT is by definition monostratal.
  2. OT requires “lots of gymnastics” to account for opacity, while SPE doesn’t.
  3. SPE(-and-subsequent-developments) “could deal with [opacity] easily”.
  4. The benefits of OT over SPE “don’t look all that great”.

More commentary on each of these below the fold.

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Prosodic Alignment at the Word Level

Call for papers

Prosodic Alignment at the Word Level

Mannheim, Germany

November 20–21, 2008

Deadline for abstracts: July 1, 2008


Organization of segments into prosodic constituents is well known to be sensitive to morphological boundaries. Thus, the difference between the cluster ‘tr’ being syllabified as a complex onset in the English word ‘nitrate’ but being coda ‘t’ plus onset ‘r’ instead in ‘night rate’ evidently is a result of their difference in morphological structure.

Currently, a widely accepted approach to this kind of phenomenon involves the notion of alignment. According to this, prosodic domains are in place to satisfy constraints that demand that all morphological constituent boundaries of a particular kind (e.g. word, stem, affix) concide with a prosodic constituent boundary of a particular kind (e.g. phonological word, foot, syllable).

This specialized workshop is on alignment, with focus on word-internal morphological and prosodic constituents. The workshop is to be centered on empirical generalizations rather than being committed to any particular theoretical framework.

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Optimality Theory, Phonological Acquisition and Disorders

Just published in the Advances in Optimality Theory series from Equinox: Dinnsen & Gierut (eds.), Optimality Theory, Phonological Acquisition and Disorders. The blurb:

Focusing on the phonologies of children with functional (non-organic) speech disorders, this volume reports the latest findings in optimality theory, phonological acquisition and disorders. The book is based on typological, cross-sectional, longitudinal, and experimental evidence from over 200 children. It stands out because of the unique test case that the population offers to optimality theory, particularly with respect to puzzles of opacity, lawful orders of acquisition, and language learnability. Beyond its theoretical significance, this research holds clinical relevance for the assessment and treatment of disordered populations, most notably the systematic prediction of learning outcomes. The volume bridges the gap between theory and application by showing how each informs the other. It is intended for linguists, psychologists, speech pathologists, second-language instructors and those interested in the latest developments in phonological theory and its applied extensions.

[ Via LINGUIST List. ]

Permanent academic position at Manchester

The University of Manchester invites applications for a Lectureship in Phonetics and Phonology to be held in the Department of Linguistics and English Language. This is a permanent academic post (in US terms, a tenure-track faculty position). The lectureship is available from 1 August 2008. Candidates with a research specialism in any area of phonetics or phonology are encouraged to apply. An ability to provide teaching at undergraduate and postgraduate level in both phonetics and phonology will be essential.

Further particulars of the post are available at the following URL:

Manchester will be familiar to phonoloblog readers as the host of the very successful annual Manchester Phonology Meeting:

For more information about the Department of Linguistics and English Language, please visit its website and blog:

The deadline for applications is 30 May 2008.


I’m pleased to announce Charpal, the new-and-very-much-improved version of the IPA symbol plugin for WordPress! Now users of this blog (authors and commenters) can enter phonetic symbols as well as symbols from other character sets easily — and other WordPress bloggers can install the plugin on their own blogs so that their users can do the same. For more details, follow this link.

Big thanks (and mad props) to David Romano for developing the original IPA symbol plugin and for upgrading it to Charpal. Thanks also to Bill Poser for recently discussing character input on Language Log (follow the links here), which is what made me think to ask David if he would upgrade the plugin.

Finally, Jessica Barlow recently pointed out this IPA Unicode keyboard, which has apparently also inspired David to see if he can fashion a similar interface for Charpal

SignTyp 1 at UConn, June 26-28

Haven’t seen a post on this conference yet, but it looks exciting. The first SignTyp Conference is going on at the University of Connecticut this coming June. SignTyp is organized by Harry van der Hulst and Rachel Channon. From the description:

The First SignTyp conference is supported by a NSF grant (BCS-0544944) the aim of which is to establish a crosslinguistic sign phonology and phonetics database. Van der Hulst and Channon are the principal investigators on this project.

The link above is to the conference website. A program with abstracts is available from the site, as well as the usual conference information.

Poser on character entry

I’m fairly sure I’ve noted before that the readership of this blog is very likely a strict (and very small) subset of the readership of Language Log, so if you’re reading this, you’re bound to have already read Bill Poser’s two posts on entering the IPA and other “exotic characters” on the web and elsewhere. Worth perusing, I’d say. I still dig our IPA symbol plugin for WordPress, but its use is obviously limited compared to the tools that Poser talks about.

Rules, Constraints, and Phonological Phenomena

(That pretty much covers it, doesn’t it? Not quite; see the next post.)

OUP has just announced (via LINGUIST List) this book, edited by Bert Vaux and Andrew Nevins. Here’s the TOC:

1. Introduction: The Division of Labor of Rules, Representations, and Constraints in Phonological Theory, Andrew Nevins and Bert Vaux
2. Why the Phonological Component Must be Serial and Rule-Based, Bert Vaux
3. Ordering, David Odden
4. Stress-Epenthesis Interactions, Ellen Broselow
5. Representational Economy, William Idsardi and Eric Raimy
6. Fenno-Swedish Quantity: Contrast in Stratal OT, Paul Kiparsky
7. SPE Extensions: Conditions on Representations and Defect Driven Rules, John Frampton
8. Constraining the Learning Path Without Constraints, or The OCP and NoBanana, Charles Reiss

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More aggressive reduplication?

Since reading Kie Zuraw’s work on aggressive reduplication (changes where “already-similar syllables are made more similar”, with no apparent phonotactic rationale), I’ve noticed several other possible cases of this in English. As I will probably never use this list for anything else, I offer it here as data for anyone interested in this topic.

As in Zuraw’s paper, rough popularity is indicated by number of Google hits.

Non-standard form ghits Standard form ghits
Barbar the elephant 1,230 Babar the elephant 21,900
Yuri Gargarin 3,780 Yuri Gagarin 312,000
Klu Klux Klan 132,000 Ku Klux Klan 1,700,00
buproprion 95,500 bupropion 4,020,000
snuffalufagus 23,000 snuffalupagus 7,800
snuffleufagus 1,250 snuffleupagus 115,000
onaconna 850
marscarpone 45,400 mascarpone 2,290,000

(“Onaconna” is a deliberate misspelling of “on account of”.)

As evidence of how these pronunciations arise, I can attest that my daughter (3;8) spontaneously starting saying “Barbar” although I was careful to use the correct pronunciation in her first exposure to the Babar books.

Another possibly related case is the Biblical pair Priscilla and Aquilla: Kenyon & Knott 1953 note that Aquilla is often incorrectly given second syllable stress, apparently to make it rhyme with Priscilla. But since this involves making two words rhyme, perhaps it better falls under the rubric of “paradigmatically echoic words” than aggressive reduplication.


Kenyon, J.S. & T. A. Knott (1953) “A Pronouncing Dictionary of American English”. Springfield, Mass.: Merriam-Webster.

SFU Phonology Fest

SFU Phonology Fest 2008: The Distinction between Phonology and Phonetics

Saturday, April 5, 2008 at Simon Fraser University’s Burnaby campus

Recent research in Phonology has tended to include more and more functional explanations for phonological phenomena: distinctive features, inventories, sound change, and sound patterning. Some functional explanations appeal to processing considerations, others to frequency effects. The rest appeal to phonetic (articulatory or acoustic/perceptual) grounding. The phonetic grounding is included as basis or source of the phonological constraints, or it is directly incorporated into the theoretical account to yield a phonetics-phonology mix; or the phonetic grounding is the substance of the theoretical account. Evaluation of these various approaches is hampered by a lack of consensus on the definition of ‘phonology’ and ‘phonetics’.
The SFU Phonology Fest seeks to clarify the definition, and may also address what makes a particular sound property part of, our outside of, speakers’ grammars.

Presenters & Discussants: John Alderete, Richard Wright, Joseph Stemberger, Kimary Shahin, Suzanne Urbanczyk, Rod Casali, Jason Brown, Eric Vatikiotis-Bateson, Gunnar Hannson, Sharon Hargus, Ewa Czaykowska-Higgins, Bryan Gick, Darin Flynn, Sonya Bird.

(Link to program.)

[ Via LINGUIST List. ]

Ian Catford's Life in Linguistics

[ Via LINGUIST List. ]

“The Catford Tapes are a series of eight one-hour lectures given by Ian Catford in early 1985, on the occasion of his retirement from the University of Michigan Linguistics Department. For anyone with an interest in linguistics, from theoretical to applied, from English to Kabardian, from grammar to phonetics, from Henry Sweet to … well, to Ian Catford, these lectures make clear just how fascinating and remarkably broad Professor Catford’s life in linguistics has been.”

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mfm 16 cfp

[ See also the LINGUIST List announcement. ]

Sixteenth Manchester Phonology Meeting

22-24 MAY 2008

Deadline for abstracts: 3rd March 2008

Special session: ‘Phonology and the mental lexicon’ featuring Abby Cohn, Sarah Hawkins and Aditi Lahiri

Held in Manchester, UK; organised through a collaboration of phonologists at the University of Edinburgh, the University of Manchester, the Université Toulouse-Le Mirail and elsewhere.

Conference website:


Following up on Nancy Hall’s discussion of the Lutfi > Lufti transposition, I’m just as curious about the growth in the same setting (i.e. celebrity journalism) of the combining form celebu– [səlɛbju], as in celebu-wreck and celebu-freak. One Google search on {celebu*} also yields celebu-world, celebu spawn, celebu-wishes, celebu-goo, celebu-shambles, celebu-trend, celebu-architect, celebu-campaign, celebu-moms, and celebutantes.

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The Phonological Enterprise

Just announced on LINGUIST List: The Phonological Enterprise, by Charles Reiss and Mark Hale (Oxford University Press, Feb. 2008).

Re-examines foundational issues in phonology, linguistics, and cognitive science. Develops a coherent picture of the study of phonology and its relationship to other disciplines. Written with wit and in a clear and pedagogic style. This book scrutinizes recent work in phonological theory from the perspective of Chomskyan generative linguistics and argues that progress in the field depends on taking seriously the idea that phonology is best studied as a mental computational system derived from an innate base, phonological Universal Grammar. Two simple problems of phonological analysis provide a frame for a variety of topics throughout the book. The competence-performance distinction and markedness theory are both addressed in some detail, especially with reference to phonological acquisition. Several aspects of Optimality Theory, including the use of Output-Output Correspondence, functionalist argumentation and dependence on typological justification are critiqued. The authors draw on their expertise in historical linguistics to argue that diachronic evidence is often mis-used to bolster phonological arguments, and they present a vision of the proper use of such evidence. Issues of general interest for cognitive scientists, such as whether categories are discrete and whether mental computation is probabilistic are also addressed. The book ends with concrete proposals to guide future phonological research.

The breadth and depth of the discussion, ranging from details of current analyses to the philosophical underpinnings of linguistic science, is presented in a direct style with as little recourse to technical language as possible.

Phonology and celebritology

 Anyone interested in syllable contact and metathesis should take note of the current news reports about Britney Spears. Her manager, whose real name is apparently Sam Lutfi, is frequently called Sam Lufti by reporters.

Currently, “Sam  Lutfi” gets 76,700 Google hits, while “Sam Lufti” gets 60,000.

Phonology, syntax and the lexicon: interdependence

[ Update: now announced on LINGUIST List. ]

Phonology, syntax and the lexicon: interdependence

14th Oral English Conference at Villetaneuse, Paris XIII

ALOES 2008: 4-5 April 2008
(the ALOES is the French association for oral English)

Last Call for Papers — abstract deadline: 10 February 2008

Guest plenary speaker: Heinz Giegerich, University of Edinburgh

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Phonology in Biolinguistics

Speaking of Charles Reiss: he has an article co-authored with Frédéric Mailhot (“Computing Long-Distance Dependencies in Vowel Harmony“) in the first issue of the new open access journal Biolinguistics.

Bridget Samuels also contributed the first review article to the new journal (“On Evolutionary Phonology“), and happens to also be one of the invited speakers to NAPhC5.

NAPhC5: Phonology as Symbolic Computation

Charles Reiss has just posted the call for papers for the Fifth North American Phonology Conference, to be held in Montréal May 9-11, 2008. Abstracts “up to 3 pages in length” are due March 1.

(Note that there are no particular formatting requirements for abstracts, and “[a]nonymity is not required”. The NAPhC folks used to accept up to full-blown paper drafts, but appear to have decided that was not such a great idea this time.)

Some recent book announcements

Three recent book announcements found recently on LINGUIST List, of possible interest to phonoloblog readers:

Why I Don't Love the International Phonetic Alphabet

[ Guest post by Sally Thomason, from Language Log; some links added by EB. ]

Don’t get me wrong: I love the idea of an international phonetic alphabet, and most of the IPA symbols are the same as the phonetic symbols used by linguists all over the world, including me. But some of them are different, and some of those differences make the IPA non-ideal for me, and I suspect for a lot of other fieldworkers out there too. Some of my reasons are fairly trivial, but one of them is a serious problem. I’ll save that one for last.

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Speaking of Phonology …

Phonology Thematic Issue 2009

Call for Papers – Relations between phonological models and experimental data (.pdf)

Over the past decades, experimental data have been used increasingly as evidence in phonological theorising. The success of the LabPhon conferences and the associated book series is evidence of this. However, most research in laboratory phonology eschews the kinds of formal grammatical models used in theoretical phonology. LabPhon papers tend to be neutral with respect to choice of grammatical model, or explicitly argue against a phonological grammar approach. On the other hand, research in theoretical phonology tends to rely solely on descriptive grammars or fieldwork as its empirical base. This thematic issue aims to build further bridges between theoretical phonology and laboratory phonology.

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Support the Sami

Fellow phonologist Bruce Morén recently began a discussion on LINGUIST List entitled “Cultural Sensitivity & Endangered Languages: Saami” (referred to throughout Morén’s post as Sami, and once as Sámi). Among the reasons why we should care is “the uniquely complex grammar of the Sami languages”:

In the words of one of the foremost researchers on these languages, “Sámi phonetics, phonology and morphophonology are amongst the most complicated in Europe if not in the whole world” (Sammallahti 1990:441). This includes what looks like a preference for simple onsets and complex codas, three linguistically significant degrees of consonant duration, quasi-harmonizing “glide vowels”, laryngeal contrasts only in post-stressed medial position, an extensive and pervasive consonant gradation system, productive morphological paradigms including literally hundreds of forms, etc. Each one of these phenomena is interesting and perhaps problematic for some linguistic theories, but taken in concert, they are astoundingly complex and form a perfect testing ground for many theoretical claims. These languages are important sources of unique linguistic data, and they should not be allowed to simply vanish.

Several of the good folks at Tromsø’s CASTL — both permanent members (e.g., Morén and Curt Rice) and past visitors (e.g., Patrik Bye, Dave Odden) — have written about many of these and other delightful complexities of Saami/Sami/Sámi grammar. If you haven’t already, you may be interested in taking a look — you can start, for example, with some of Bye’s work on ROA.

Update, 11/21: this book just announced.

OT-Help goes 1.1

Joe Pater, Chris Potts and I just released version 1.1 of OT-Help, and we figured we’d use this occasion to announce it on Phonoloblog.

If you’re already using OTHelp 1.0, upgrading will give you a somewhat smoother interface and the ability to export Praat files from every screen.

If you aren’t familiar with OT-Help, read more here.

We’re happy to get your comments and feedback, including ideas and requests for future versions, stories of how you used OT-Help in research or teaching, etc.

With technical issues of any kind, please contact Michael Becker.

OT-Help 1.1

Distributional arguments noch einmal

This is what I get for reading a table of contents announcement on LINGUIST List — specifically, for Journal of Linguistics 43.3 (here’s the link to the actual issue, in case you have access).

I got specifically interested in the Notes and Discussion section, where there are two articles: Dick Hudson‘s “Inherent variability and Minimalism: Comments on Adger’s ‘Combinatorial variability'” and David Adger‘s “Variability and modularity: A response to Hudson”. (Adger’s “Combinatorial Variability” is in JLing 42.3.)

Wait (I hear you say) — this is phonoloblog, not morphosyntactoblog (or whatever). Why am I interested in what Hudson has to say about Adger and vice-versa? Well, some of Hudson’s comments echo something I’ve brought up here a few times before, and the exchange between Hudson and Adger bears directly on some current work in phonology; specifically, some of the work that addresses variation.

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Yoda Minnesota

I missed it on Oct. 7/8, but just caught the replay tonight of Saturday Night Live starring Seth Rogen and featuring Spoon. One of the longest (and funniest) Weekend Update segment with Amy Poehler, Seth Myers, and many others. At one point, Poehler busts out two jokes in a row that both rely on the neutralization between /t/ and /d/ between two vowels, the second of which is unstressed (discussed several times on this blog):

  1. “Anita Hill? I need a vacation.”
    Anita, I need a = [əní:ɾə]
  2. “One of the hottest concert tours in the country now is 14-year-old Miley Cyrus, the star of “Hannah Montana”. While the least popular: Yoda Minnesota.”
    Yoda, Minnesota = [óʊɾə]

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Squibs in NLLT

As noted in the announcement that Junko Ito had joined Michael Kenstowicz as a phonology editor of NLLT, the journal will now be publishing shorter squib-like pieces. I wanted to get the low-down on this exciting move, so I contacted Junko and we set up a webchat interview. (Junko’s idea — I was Junko’s undergrad student in the early 90s, and even then she was way ahead of me in the new technology area.) The interview in full is below the fold.

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Junko Ito joins NLLT editors

This just in: Junko Ito has recently become an editor of Natural Language and Linguistic Theory (joining Michael Kenstowicz as one of the two p-side editors). But UCSC linguists on the s-side need not feel abandoned; one of Junko’s fellow editors is UCSD’s John Moore (UCSC Ph.D., 1991).

The aim of Natural Language and Linguistic Theory is to provide “a forum for the discussion of theoretical research that pays close attention to natural language data. The journal actively seeks to bridge the gap between descriptive work and work of a highly theoretical, less empirically oriented nature.”

The NLLT editors have recently announced that in addition to full-length articles and reviews, the journal will also open a platform for short squibs and discussion pieces.

[ Hat tip: Maria Gouskova. ]

Conference on the Syllable in Phonology

This cfp just out: another CUNY Phonology Forum conference brought to you by Cairns & Raimy. January 17-18, 2008 at the CUNY Graduate Center; abstracts due Nov. 10, notifications Dec. 1.

Earlier this year I noted that this year’s CUNY Phonology Forum conference had made abstracts, handouts, and audio of the talks available here — I hope they do that again. Poke around the CUNY Phonology Forum website for more information, including links to papers (and discussions thereof) from previous conferences, etc.

[ Via LINGUIST List — where the call deadline is mistakenly listed as Jan. 1, 2000 … ]

Grade school theory of the syllable?

András Kornai writes with the following interesting query (supplemented here with some text formatting and a Wikipedia link):

My son is in grade school, and he is learning a great deal of terminology about English spelling. For example, a digraph is a letter-combination that regularly corresponds to a single sound, sh, ck, etc. This is pretty standard. A blend is a syllable-final consonant cluster as far as I can make sense of this, welded sounds are a closed set of rhymes (ing, unk, … — there doesn’t seem to be any defining property), bonus letters are the second members of doubled (consonant) graphemes irrespective of whether the sound they represent is long or short, taps have something to do with moras, perhaps.

Google for these terms and you find plenty of school curricula that demand knowledge of these notions, most of them related to something called the “Wilson Reading System“. Is there anything out there that links this terminology to better-established linguistic notions? Has anybody produced an overview (or a critique) of the system from the perspective of contemporary phonology? Any pointers would be greatly appreciated.

If you know anything relevant to this query, please post your comments!

Soft … to the point of silent

I’m still reading this month’s Vanity Fair and came across this:

The Report (pronounced with a soft t, as is Colbert) debuted in the fall of 2005 as a spin-off of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show, the critical and popular success that’s often referred to by its host, Jon Stewart, as a “fake news” show.

— from Seth Mnookin’s “The Man in the Irony Mask

I’ve heard/seen “soft” (vs. “hard”) used to refer to different non-silent pronunciations of the letters c (soft [s] vs. hard [k]), g (soft [ʒ] vs. hard [ʤ]), but I don’t think I’ve ever heard of “soft” referring to a completely silent letter in English. If anyone else has, please comment about it below.

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NELS 38 program

The NELS 38 program was just announced on LINGUIST List in text form, but check out the colorful two-page PDF poster that the organizers have put together. It looks like the abstracts will eventually be posted here.

You can immediately see how well-represented phonology is this year from the program poster, which is color-coded: phonology in dark red, syntax in dark blue, semantics in light blue (and invited talks in yellow — only talks, not posters). Counting them up, I see 12 phonology talks (plus Bruce Hayes, invited speaker for the ‘Abstractness without Innateness’ workshop), 22 syntax talks (plus Rose-Marie Déchaine, invited speaker for the main session), and 18 semantics talks (plus two invited speakers, Irene Heim for the ‘Pronouns and Binding Theory’ workshop and Gennaro Chierchia for the main session) … certainly not even, but better than I’ve sometimes seen.

I wish I had the time to go this year; looks fun! For those who can be in Ottawa on Oct. 26-28, note that the early registration deadline is Sept. 30.

GLOW 31 cfp out

GLOW 31 will take place at Newcastle University March 26-28, sandwiched by workshops on March 25 and 29. Arto Anttila is one of the invited speakers, no doubt in relation to the first of the five workshops, “Categorical phonology and gradient facts”. Two of the other workshops are of potential interest to phonologists: “Language contact” and “Principles of linearization” (I’m looking at you, Raimy).

[ Via LINGUIST List. ]

Peer review

A few months ago I mentioned that Kai von Fintel and David Beaver have established a new, peer-reviewed, open access journal (Semantics & Pragmatics), with the hopeful thought that “we [= phono-types] should do this, too”. John McCarthy expressed concern about the amount of work that would be involved in such a venture, and Alan Prince followed up with a question and comment about the value of peer review these days. Ed Keer added that something like phonoloblog “could be expanded to create some collaborative workspace for phonologists” — an idea I like a lot, and something I very much welcome discussion about. Submit your posts/comments!

I gave a quick response to John’s comment, and Kai promised to respond to John’s and Alan’s “skeptical remarks” over on the S&P editors’ blog. In this post Kai quotes Alan’s question and comment and explains why he and David decided to go the peer review route with S&P. Kai addresses the role of peer review in today’s publishing climate, but I don’t think he addresses Alan’s question about the value of peer review. Well, let me rephrase: Kai addresses some of the practical value of peer review (exposure, promotion/tenure, etc.), but Alan’s question seemed to me to be more about whether peer review actually works to improve the product. Alan’s comment — that some of the practical value of peer review might be replaced by more effective means of citation indexing — remains unaddressed. Any thoughts from phonoloblog readers?

A final note: Kai’s post begins by citing an interesting paper about recent, relevant changes in publishing in economics, and I agree with Kai that the observations made in the paper apply (in some modified form) to linguistics as well. One of these observations is that “the necessity of going through the peer-review process has lessened for high status authors: in the old days peer-reviewed journals were by far the most effective means of reaching readers, whereas with the growth of the Internet high-status authors can now post papers online and exploit their reputation to attract readers”. I think that some such effect of status is unavoidable regardless of the peer review question, and I’m interested in how high-status authors can facilitate the recognition of work by lower-status authors (apart from citing it, of course). No doubt Alan is a high-status author, and I think he has done his part to facilitate the recognition of a great deal of work by establishing the first electronic repository in linguistics: the Rutgers Optimality Archive, which “is open to all who wish to disseminate their work in, on, or about OT” — and the success of ROA has motivated others to establish similar linguistics repositories (such as the two that Kai cites in his post, and lingBuzz; see the sidebar for others). Other high-status authors could contribute to the recognition of other work by submitting their own work to these repositories rather than simply posting it on their personal webpages. (If the repositories were just providing webspace, they’d be long dead.)

Mid-America Linguistics Conference

The 2007 Mid-America Linguistics Conference (MALC) will be hosted by the Linguistics Department at the University of Kansas. The conference will be held over the weekend of October 26-28, 2007 at the Lawrence campus, and coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Linguistics Department at the University of Kansas.

The organizers invite abstracts in all areas of linguistics, including (but not restricted to) phonetics, phonology, syntax, semantics, psycholinguistics, acquisition, neurolinguistics, historical linguistics, sociolinguistics, and pragmatics.

Deadline for abstract submissions: August 22, 2007.


If you subscribe to the comments rss feed for phonoloblog, then you may have noticed a recent flood of comments. This is because I have just begun categorizing posts to facilitate browsing. Allow me to explain.

Up until now I had only set up one category, “General”, for posts on phonoloblog. I don’t recall why I made that decision way back when; maybe it was because I didn’t want to think about what sorts of categories we might need. But now that we’ve been online for three full years and have about 360 posts of various types, I thought it was time to take this step.

You should be able to see the current category list in the sidebar. In alphabetical order, they are:

  • Books — for book announcements, book reviews, etc.
  • Conferences — for conference/workshop announcements, calls for papers, programs, etc.
  • General — still the grab-bag for most posts
  • Jobs — job announcements, etc. (though this is mostly covered by the phonolojobs page
  • Online — links to material available online (e.g. archives), etc.
  • Papers — links to / discussion of particular papers, etc.
  • Software — links to / discussion of software, etc.

I’m sure I’ll add to these categories as time goes on, but for now I think they’ll do. Contributors, please try to use these categories when you post — you can use multiple categories when appropriate.

So what does this have to do with the flood of comments, you ask? Well, I’ve been going through and manually recategorizing old posts. When there’s a link from one phonoloblog post (post-1) to another (post-2), a surrounding snippet of text from post-1 is posted as a comment on post-2. For some reason, these particular comments are being automatically updated in the manual recategorization process, and so they’re coming up as new comments. My apologies for the barrage.

Experimental Approaches to Phonology

[ Via LINGUIST List. ]

Maria-Josep Solé, Patrice Speeter Beddor, and Manjari Ohala (eds.), Experimental Approaches to Phonology. Oxford University Press, 2007.

Publisher’s blurb:

This wide-ranging survey of experimental methods in phonetics and phonology shows the insights and results provided by different methods of investigation, including laboratory-based, statistical, psycholinguistic, computational-modeling, corpus, and field techniques. The five chapters in the first part of the book examine the recent history and interrelations of theory and method. The remaining 18 chapters are organized into parts devoted to four key current areas of research: phonological universals; phonetic variation and phonological change; maintaining, enhancing, and modeling phonological contrasts; and phonological knowledge. The book provides fresh insights into the findings and theoretical advances that emerge from experimental investigation of phonological structure and phonological knowledge, as well as critical perspectives on experimental methods in the perception, production, and modeling of speech.

This book will be a valuable asset for all researchers into the sound structure of language, including scholars and advanced students of phonetics, phonology, speech science, psycholinguistics, and applied linguistics.

(Click here for a sample.)

Batch-convert wav to mp3

I found a way to convert a bunch of wav files to mp3 on Windows. Since it took me a while to find this supposedly simple thing, I though I’d share, and also ask if anybody knows how to do the same on a mac.

First, download the Windows version of LAME. You might already have it if you are using Audacity with mp3 files. The LAME folder has a dll file that Audacity uses, but also an exe file, which gives you a command-line interface.

From the command prompt, go to the LAME directory, and try something like:

FOR %X IN (sounds\\*.wav) DO lame %X

Where “sounds” is the path to the directory that has your sound files in it.

What is this good for? If you want to run a web-based questionnaire with sound files, you will find that browsers treat sound files poorly and inconsistently. The best way I know to improve the situation is to use Sound Manager 2, which puts your files inside a little flash object – but it requires your files to be in mp3 format.

Workshop on Prosody, Syntax and Information Structure

The Department of Linguistics at Indiana University will host the Workshop on Prosody, Syntax and Information Structure (WPSI) III.

WPSI III will aim to provide a forum to explore new research methods in formal linguistics which seek objective empirical bases through interdisciplinary, collaborative, and experimental settings.

Topics include:

  • Re-examination of the Models of Prosodic Phonology
  • Prosody and Syntax of Wh-interrogatives
  • Information Packaging and Syntax
  • Experimental Syntax

Speakers include:

Caroline Féry (Potsdam), Yuki Hirose (Tokyo), Shinichiro Ishihara (Potsdam), Junko Ito (UCSC), Sun-Ah Jun (UCLA), Yoshihisa Kitagawa (Indiana), Robert Kluender (UCSD), Haruo Kubozono (Kobe), Armin Mester (UCSC), Norvin Richards (MIT), Jennifer Smith (UNC), Satoshi Tomioka (Delaware)

The workshop website is still under construction but will provide fuller information by the end of July.

[ Via LINGUIST List. ]


One thing I’ve always found hard about teaching English phonetics is convincing my students that the high front vowel preceding [ŋ] is (lax) [ɪ], not (tense) [i:]. It’s not hard to convince them that there’s no contrast between the two in this context, but no matter how many spectrograms I show them, they’re convinced that the vowel is more like [i:] than it is like [ɪ] — i.e., that bing sounds more like bean than like been. The biggest problem is that I can’t say that I disagree, no matter how many spectrograms have “convinced” me to the contrary.

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Driving home from a friend’s place last night, Karen pointed this out:

This is one of the windows on a “laundramat” in our neighborhood. I guess I’ve gotten used to “laundramat” for “laundromat”, but will I ever get used to “tripble” for “triple” (or even “tripple”)? Although I’ve spilled plenty of ink on the fact that e.g. p and b are nearly identical, I don’t think I will.

Googling for {“tripble”} returns about 550 hits; restricting the search to English-language websites results in 27 hits. The fourth hit of those 27 today is this page on a San Diego food blog, the author of which just happens to have found the same “laundramat” and “tripble” misspellings interesting — scroll down to the very bottom of the page. (I also recommend the comment on the picture just above that … something I often think about myself while driving around America’s Finest City.)

Old World Conference on Phonology 5

This just over LINGUIST List:

The Fifth Old World Conference in Phonology will be held at the University of
Toulouse-Le Mirail, France, January, 23-26 2008.
Pre-conference Workshop ‘Corpora in phonological research’: January, 23 2008. Main Conference: January, 24-26 2008.

Guest speakers:
Maria Rosa Lloret (University of Barcelona)
Nick Clements (CNRS/University of Paris III Sorbonne-Nouvelle)
Haruo Kubozono (University of Kobe)

Call deadline: Sept. 1, 2007. “The meeting URL will be available shortly.”

How do you 'fix' an illegal cluster? (and why?)

I’ve been reading a lot about the ‘psychological reality’ of phonotactic constraints lately.   Something that’s puzzling me is the diversity of on-line repair strategies for constraint violations.  In particular, for phontactically illegal clusters, sometimes epenthesis is observed (e.g., Japanese listeners perceive ebzo as ebuzo; Dupoux and colleagues), and other times consonants are altered (e.g., /dl/->/gl/ for French speakers; Halle and colleagues).

My question is why such diversity is observed–that is, what triggers the different repair strategies.  N.B. I’m not expecting a single strategy to be used; I will place my hand on the good book (P&S 1993) and swear an oath to “homogeneity of target, heterogeneity of process.”

In a recent paper, Kabak + Idsardi argued that perceptual epenthesis is driven by syllable structure constraints, not by consonantal contact.  So, for a cluster C1C2, it is the ill-formedness of C1 in coda that drives epenthesis, not the contact of C1.C2.  In fact, they argue (based on confusion data) that no epenthesis occurs when there’s simply a syllable contact violation (*C1.C2).
This accounts for their data as well as the Dupoux et al. results; however in many other cases a “contact” violation does trigger ‘epenthesis.’  In production, Lisa Davidson’s shown that onset clusters violating English phonotactic constraints are repaired not by changing the consonants but by altering the temporal relationship of the gestures (not true epenthesis, which is why I used the scare quotes above).  Perhaps more directly comparable to K+I, Berent et al. have shown perceptual epenthesis (i.e., confusions between lbif and lebif).

And of course epenthesis is not the only way to fix clusters.  Lots of other studies have shown perceptual confusions between featurally similar clusters (e.g., */dl/-/gl/)–e.g., Moreton in English.

Any thoughts on this? What’s driving the heterogeneity of processes?

XVIIIth International Congress of Linguists (CIL18)

The XVIIIth International Congress of Linguists will take place at Korea University, Seoul, Republic of Korea, July 21-26, 2008. There are several parallel sessions of designated topics (including phonetics and phonology) and workshops (including speech sciences in linguistics, interfaces in phonology, and current issues in linguistics interfaces).

Abstract deadlines for most if not all of these sessions and workshops is May 31, 2007 — that is, in less than two weeks!

We need to do this, too

At SALT this weekend, David Beaver and Kai von Fintel announced a new journal that they will be editing, Semantics & Pragmatics. This announcement was followed by a more public announcement on Kai’s semantics, etc. blog, where Kai summarizes the motivation for the new journal as follows:

Our journal will be a high-quality, rigorously peer-reviewed journal on topics in semantics and pragmatics. Why a new journal (given that the field already has three excellent dedicated journals: Linguistics & Philosophy, Natural Language Semantics, Journal of Semantics)? Our journal will be an open access journal, with no subscription barriers, and it will make optimal use of modern electronic distribution and management methods.

Follow the links to the slides that David and Kai presented at SALT and to the editors’ blog for this new journal. It’s a great idea, and I think we can and should do something similar for phonology and phonetics for all the same reasons that David and Kai are doing this for semantics and pragmatics.


With classes over I got around to upgrading my software last week and was pleasantly surprised by a couple of things that may interest other phonolobloggers:

a) Times New Roman, as packaged with Microsoft Office 2007, now comes with most (if not all?) Unicode phonetic symbols, and (still) allows diacritic stacking. I’ve tried converting a few papers from various Unicode fonts (esp. SIL ones like Charis and Doulos) into Times, and so far so good. Times is über-ubiquitous (journals; academia, business, government, etc. ), so this is good news for working phonologists, and long overdue! (Ironically, Microsoft has replaced Times New Roman with Calibri (stress, anyone?), as the default font in Office 2007; the new guard is sans-serif but also sans-IPA.)

b) I draw a lot in Word (feature geometry, prosodic structure), so I’m happy that lines and curves now stay where you draw them, and line movement is fully gradient (pace phonology).

c) Windows Vista has a snipping tool (under Accessories) that lets you capture (and edit) anything on the screen which makes it even easier to copy spectrograms from Praat or data sets or tableaux from articles into class handouts, etc. 

OT and English phonology, anyone?

According to this LINGUIST List post, the book series that brought you April McMahon‘s nice-and-reasonably-sized book An Introduction to English Phonology and other introductory books on the English language is now soliciting book proposals for more advanced-level volumes:

The advanced volumes in the series are not restricted to an entry-level readership. Therefore, any text on any aspect of the linguistics of English would be eligible for the series. The only constraints on eligibility are (1) that all ETOTEL [= Edinburgh Textbooks on the English Language, the series title–EB] texts must seek to explain, to a student readership, significant (and, in curricular terms, relevant) ranges of phenomena of English; and (2) that they take due account of existing knowledge in the field. Here are two possible examples (both currently under discussion):

-English Historical Syntax. This volume would presuppose a basic knowledge of (English) syntax and of the history of English.

-Optimality Theory and the Phonology of English. Such a volume would presuppose a working knowledge of the mainstream phonological phenomena of English, and of phonological terminology and notation. It would introduce and develop a version of Optimality Theory so as to present a coherent picture of the phonology of English.

Anyone here want to tackle the second of these? Contact the series editor, Heinz Giegerich.

LabPhon 11 in New Zealand

The organising committee is pleased to announce that LabPhon 11 will be held at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand, 30 June – 2 July 2008.

The overall theme of the conference will be ”Phonetic detail in the lexicon”, with the following sub-themes:

  1. Accessing the lexicon
  2. Social information in the lexicon
  3. Phonetic cues to lexical structure
  4. Generalising over the lexicon

Further announcements will be made shortly, and posted on the conference web-page.

Paul Warren, Victoria University of Wellington
Jen Hay, University of Canterbury

[ By way of LINGUIST List. ]

Special phonology session at NELS 38

A call for papers is out (on LINGUIST List) for NELS 38, to be held at the University of Ottawa October 26-28. The call deadline is Saturday, June 9 Monday, July 9.

Of particular interest to phonoloblog readers: a special session on phonology.

The phonology special session is entitled ‘Abstractness without innateness?’ The invited speaker is Bruce Hayes from UCLA. Some of the founding assumptions of Generative Phonology involve abstract units such as distinctive features, timing units, syllables, and constraints. The innateness of these units has been seen as an important part of their nature. Recent work has sought to undermine the claim that innate primitives are necessary for phonological theory, often drawing more directly upon more concrete factors such phonetics and language change as sources of explanation. However, a reduction in the explanatory role of innateness does not entail a reduction in the role of abstractness in phonology. We are soliciting abstracts for talks addressing the role of abstractness in phonology at a time when innateness is under attack, e.g.: (i) Evidence for the existence of abstract units in phonology, independent of assumptions about innate abstract units, e.g. in acquisition, variation, change, production, perception, processing, etc.; (ii) Evidence for sources of abstract units other than Universal Grammar; (iii) Evidence that abstract units must be innate.

Marc Brunelle
Marie-Hélène Côté
Jeff Mielke

Did you mean: brick block brick

Breaking news (to me): blick is an actual word of English.

Yup, I fully admit it. Until very recently, I never actually picked up a single dictionary and checked to see whether blick was in it. I just recall the feeling of my own first exposure1 to the example as being so effective that it never even occurred to me to double-check it. But now I see that has a definition, as does the OED (if you have access). Prolly others, too, but why keep checking?

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Phonology at GLOW XXX

Just to keep you posted, there will be two days of phonology at GLOW XXX in Tromsø — stop by if you’re in the neighborhood!

On Wednesday, April 18, there will be a GLOW Workshop on Segmental Inventories, featuring talks by Ricardo Bermúdez-Otero, Daniel Currie Hall, Adam Wayment & Luigi Burzio & Donald Mathis & Robert Frank, Karthik Durvasula, Paul Boersma, Bruce Morén, and Keren Rice.

On Thursday, April 19, there will be a daylong phonology session as part of the GLOW XXX Main Session. We’ll hear from Nieke Roos & Paula Fikkert, Pétur Helgason & Cathie Ringen, Gunnar Hansson, Akinbiyi Akinlabi, Mohamed Lahrouchi, Dan Karvonen, and Andrew Martin.
More details at CASTL’s webpage.

Workshop on Segments and Tone

On June 7 and 8, 2007, the Meertens Instituut in Amsterdam and the Phonetics Institute of the University of Amsterdam jointly organize a workshop on segments and tone. Altogether 15 talks will be presented on many aspects of the relationship between consonantal and vocalic features and tone.

Participation in this workshop is free, but it would be appreciated if you announce your plans to come. A programme with all the abstracts can be found here.

WCCFL 26 at Berkeley

The program for WCCFL 26 (at Berkeley, April 27-29) was announced on LINGUIST List the other day. There are three phonology sessions this year, one each day.

Phonology 1 (Friday 10-12)

Phonology 2 (Saturday 2-4)

Phonology 3 (Sunday 10-12)

What ever happened to the phoneme? (or Bring Back Baudouin!)

The phoneme can be roughly defined as a minimal unit of sound that can be used to distinguish words in a language. The question of how to theoretically define the phoneme dominated linguistics from the late 19th century until about 1960. In 1959, Morris Halle first published his famous argument against the “classical phoneme” in his monograph The Sound Pattern of Russian. Halle and Chomsky reiterated that argument in The Sound Pattern of English, which had been widely circulated in the 1960s in various manuscript forms before it was published in 1968. The argument, now familiar to most linguists, had to do with an asymmetry in the Russian phoneme inventory. Halle had noticed that Russian regressive voice assimilation produced both phonemic and allophonic outputs. That is, it could produce a phonemic output /z/ from an underlying /s/ or an allophonic variant [ɣ] from an underlying /x/. If one were to posit a significant level of classical phonemic representation in a phonological derivation, then it would be necessary to apply regressive assimilation twice–above and below the level of phonemic representation. Hence, classical phonemic representation had to be ruled out as a significant level of phonological representation. This argument basically signaled the death of the phoneme in early generative phonological theory. As a consequence, the input to phonological derivations became the level of systematic phonemics, which captured generalizations about morphophonological alternations, a considerably more abstract level of representation than in classical phonemic theories.

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Workshop on Variation, Gradience and Frequency in Phonology

Call for posters: Workshop on Variation, Gradience and Frequency in Phonology

Abstract deadline: April 30, 2007

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Final Devoicing in Russian-Americans

Hello, I’ve just seen it yet again (“it” = the phenomenon I’m about to describe) and I am intrigued enough to use the Phonoloblog to solicit other phonologists’ views.

Russian is claimed in the research literature to have Final Devoicing; i.e. all obstruents are realized as voiceless in word-final position, irrespective of whether they are underlyingly voiced or voiceless. Yet, when I elicit these forms from Russian speakers I’ve met (usually, students in my classes), I get either partially devoiced or even fully voiced forms – certainly not neutralization of /b/ with /p/, /d/ with /t/, etc.

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Are we flat?

The University of Maryland’s Linguistics Department continues its strange love-hate relationship with phonology with this year’s announcement for what has come to be known simply as “MayFest“. In case you’ve never heard of this (almost-)annual workshop, the first sentence of the announcement clarifies:

Every year the graduate students of the Linguistics Department of the University of Maryland organize a linguistics workshop focusing on a different aspect of language.

The rest of the first paragraph explains the title of this year’s workshop: “Where, When and Why is Hierarchy Needed?”

The goal of this year’s MayFest is to bring together researchers from various disciplines to discuss the use of hierarchy and flat structures in language.

Where do phonologists these days stand on this issue? Are debates about the internal structure of the syllable actually resolved? What about Liberman & Prince’s original hierarchical foot structure proposal — was that abandoned for good reasons? It’s true that discussions in phonology don’t (or no longer) focus on these issues, but I don’t think they’re any less important than they are in syntax and semantics. Continue reading

Phonology in Poznań

This LINGUIST List post alerted me to the fact that four of the eleven thematic sessions so far planned for this year’s Poznań Linguistic Meeting (PLM) in September are quite obviously phonology-related:

Abstracts are due May 1. (Submission guidelines here.)

Cambridge Handbook: official publication and website

February 28 was the official publication date of The Cambridge Handbook of Phonology, previously mentioned here!

The hardcover version costs $150/£80. After selling off a batch of these to libraries, we can hope that CUP will seriously consider issuing a less expensive soft cover version (and, reportedly, an e-book too).

The final component of the Handbook experience – the website – is also now ready. It has some useful features:

  • You can search the entire text of the book, making it the most searchable printed book available.
  • You can search the references and download them in a variety of formats.
  • There is a forum for people to discuss the chapters (and phonology in general). Please encourage your students to use it!
  • It has additional material (e.g., ‘further reading’ lists that many authors have provided, errata, etc.). There may eventually be other things available related to each chapter (e.g., handouts, related papers, teaching materials, webpage links, audio, video…).

Thanks to Handbook editor Paul de Lacy for putting such extraordinary work into this!

To OT or not to OT

(OK, this is not, strictly speaking, a phonology-related post. But it’s about Optimality Theory, which is mostly about phonology, and the Language Log post that I discuss here was not, strictly speaking, a language-related post either. So there.)

As the resident Optimality Theorist over at Language Log (or as some folks these days apparently like to say, “optimologist”, as they chuckle to themselves), I feel the need to point out that Bill Poser’s parody-post on different date formats doesn’t even resemble an OT analysis.

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Please cover my welcome

According to the “lang/ling blogs and fun stuff” page of the excellent University of Aberdeen web resources for linguistics site, phonoloblogclaims to cover ‘all things phonology'” (emphasis added). What I actually intend the ‘all things phonology’ subtitle to mean is that all things related to phonology are welcome on phonoloblog; I’d never pretend to actually cover all those things, even with the help of the many other phonolotypes who have at one time or another posted here.

(And in case it’s not clear enough already: anyone interested in posting here can do so; you just have to let me know that you’re interested, and your posts need to be phonology-related in some way. Who knows, maybe if more folks posted here, the cover-claim could keep better pace with welcome-claim.)

On teaching phonology without the phoneme

I find the juxtaposition of the opening and closing sentences of Rick Wojcik’s comment on Bruce Hayes’ post about teaching allophony remarkable:

How can you possibly teach an introduction to linguistics without teaching the basic concept of the phoneme? […] Let them puzzle over those questions, not some dry lecture on distinctive features.

Bruce’s post asks a sincere question, and the causticness of Wojcik‘s comment, clear enough just from the two sentences quoted above, seems unwarranted as a response (to say the least).

First: I don’t appreciate the presuppositions snuck in by the “basic concept of” and “dry lecture on” — in my experience as an undergraduate, the noun phrases modified by these words could well be switched: “How can you possibly teach an introduction to linguistics without teaching the basic concept of distinctive features? […] Let them puzzle over those questions, not some dry lecture on the phoneme.”

Second: as if “the phoneme” and “distinctive features” were the only two options on the table! There are plenty of other phonologically-relevant topics that can be presented as a unit in an introductory linguistics course in such a way that deep and important issues in the field are conveyed in an accessible manner to students whose exposure to linguistics before that course (or ever again) is close to zero.

Below the fold, I take apart the middle part of Wojcik’s comment, breaking it into bite-sized chunks in order to either question the relevance of the phoneme to that chunk, or to point out the relevance of at least one topic other than the phoneme (or distinctive features, for that matter) that I think would make a fabulous phonology unit in an introductory linguistics course.

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Mutually-assured destruction

Teaching both undergraduate and graduate phonology courses this quarter, and having just finished some revisions to a paper on opacity (ROA, lingBuzz; to appear in Phonology), I’ve had different types of rule interactions — in particular, ones that result in opacity — on the brain. In the paper, I describe several types of opaque-seeming rule interactions in detail and give them names like “self-destructive feeding”. Now here’s a new one that’s not discussed in the paper because I don’t think there are any attested examples of it. Still, it’s an interesting type of case that I think is worth discussing. For reasons that’ll become clear as/if you read on below, I call it mutually-assured destruction.

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Recent calls

Here are some phonology-related calls-for-papers I’ve been collecting from LINGUIST List over the past week or so:

The Cambridge Handbook of Phonology

At long last, Cambridge University Press is publishing The Cambridge Handbook of Phonology, edited by Paul de Lacy, this month.

The picture of the book off to the right links to, but go to the CUP page to get more information about the book, including PDFs of the front matter and such. There is also a supplementary website for the book (which looks to be still under development) here.

Here’s the book blurb:

Phonology – the study of how the sounds of speech are represented in our minds – is one of the core areas of linguistic theory, and is central to the study of human language. This state-of-the-art handbook brings together the world’s leading experts in phonology to present the most comprehensive and detailed overview of the field to date. Focusing on the most recent research and the most influential theories, the authors discuss each of the central issues in phonological theory, explore a variety of empirical phenomena, and show how phonology interacts with other aspects of language such as syntax, morphology, phonetics, and language acquisition. Providing a one-stop guide to every aspect of this important field, The Cambridge Handbook of Phonology will serve as an invaluable source of readings for advanced undergraduate and graduate students, an informative overview for linguists, and a useful starting point for anyone beginning phonological research.

Books: on languages that may die soon, and on one that probably won't

On LINGUIST List recently, we hear of two books that may be of interest to phonoloblog readers:

The first, which I also mentioned here, is not strictly about phonology — but it’s written by a phonologist, so there you go.

Cascadilla Proceedings Project

Somehow, I completely missed (until just a few days ago) the existence of the truly cool Cascadilla Proceedings Project (emphasis added):

Cascadilla Proceedings Project is an imprint of Cascadilla Press. We created CPP as a new model for proceedings of linguistics conferences and workshops. All proceedings published by CPP are available both in print and on the web. Web access is free and unrestricted, and the copy available on the web is the same as the book version in content, formatting, and pagination. The print edition is a hardback which meets library binding standards. This combination allows for the best of both worlds: free and quick access for researchers looking for a proceedings paper, with all the advantages of being published in book form.

Among several other conference proceedings, there are those from the 2nd Laboratory Approaches to Spanish Phonetics and Phonology.

You may already be familiar with Cascadilla Press from recent book/CD proceedings of WCCFL and several other conferences, their Mac/PC-friendly Arboreal and Moraic fonts, or their fun teaching tools like IPA Bingo and Magnetic Phonetics. Now there’s just all the more reason to love the good folks at Cascadilla. While you’re browsing their site, consider buying a classroom IPA chart (or a t-shirt, coffee mug, etc.) at their new Cafe Press site. (And don’t forget to tell ’em phonoloblog sent you.)

UMass paper archive (and lingBuzz, too)

This post on Kai von Fintel’s Semantics etc. blog reminds me that there’s a little-publicized archive of UMass linguistics papers, searchable and browsable by subject area. Here’s the phonology area, and here’s the phonetics area; there are quite a few other areas, almost all of them populated by several papers.

Kai’s link to Kratzer & Selkirk on Spellout does not go to this archive, but rather to lingBuzz, which I first mentioned on phonoloblog just over a year ago. Continue reading

Upcoming conference update

This just over the LINGUIST List wire (emphasis added where appropriate):

  • (link) “The 31st Annual Penn Linguistics Colloquium will take place February 23-25, 2007 at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. […] The PLC 31 program includes sessions on language acquisition, phonology, phonology/phonetics, semantics, semantics/pragmatics, sociolinguistics and language change, syntax and syntax/semantics. For a complete list of talks with links to abstracts, please visit
  • (link) “NELS 38 will be held at the University of Ottawa and will include a General Session, a Poster Session, and two Special Sessions: one on phonology (theme: ‘Abstractness without innateness?’) and one in semantics (theme: tba). Invited speakers: tba. The call for papers will be posted soon.”

That is all.

15th Manchester Phonology Meeting

Call: 15th Manchester Phonology Meeting


Fifteenth Manchester Phonology Meeting

24-26 MAY 2007

Deadline for abstracts: 1st March 2007

Special session: ‘Where is allomorphy?’, featuring (in alphabetical order) Ricardo Bermudez-Otero, Mirjam Ernestus, John McCarthy, Glyne Piggott

Held in Manchester, UK; organised through a collaboration of phonologists at the University of Edinburgh, the University of Manchester, the Universite Toulouse-Le Mirail, the Universite Montpellier-Paul Valery and elsewhere.

Conference website:

Continue reading


Speaking of the LSA, readers of phonoloblog will no doubt be interested in the subject of a talk presented by members of the Chicago Language Modeling Lab (CLML) (lab director Jason Riggle and grad researchers Max Bane, James Kirby, and Jeremy O’Brien). The talk was titled “Efficiently Computing OT Typologies” (here’s the abstract) and it served several purposes: to announce Erculator (“a web-based application that lets you create OT candidate tableaux, check their consistency, make inferences and other analyses, and format them for direct inclusion in your Word or LaTeX documents”), to report on its progress (e.g., the gui is not yet fully functional, but the cli is), and to show what it can do and how it does it (drawing heavily from Alan Prince’s work on Entailed Ranking Conditions (ERCs), which you can read about here, here, here, here, and here). Go on and check it out.

LSA thoughts?

Back in October I noted a number of sessions that were scheduled at the LSA last week and that might be of interest to phonologists. I’d like to invite anyone who attended any of these sessions (or anything else of phono-interest at the LSA) to offer their thoughts here on phonoloblog.

The teaching term began for me as soon as I got back from LSA, so I haven’t yet had time to write up some thoughts I had on the ominously-titled plenary panel “Phonology: An Appraisal of the Field in 2007”, but I will definitely get around to it soon.

More on a vs. an

After my post about using an when an immediately following parenthetical begins with a consonant (but the first word after the parenthetical begins with a vowel), I felt the need to get some Google counts. What follows are the stats for strings of the form “a/an to me (at least/anyway) X”.

The finding is that Julian Barnes is not alone: there are a lot of people out there writing things like an–to me–unknown singer.

I wonder about the converse: a–obviously–preposterous idea. I easily found an example, “a (obviously refurbished) replacement unit”, but didn’t investigate systematically (and it seems there are a lot of people typing things like “displayed with a obviously wrong pixel ratio”, so we need to control for baseline use of a before vowels).

Tables and graphs come after the jump…

Continue reading

Prescient 'an'

Page 57 of the Dec. 25, 2006/Jan. 1, 2007 New Yorker, in a piece by Julian Barnes called “The past conditional“:

In the car on the way back to London, we had an–to me–even more peculiar exchange about my niece and her boyfriend.

Two theories:

  1. For Julian Barnes or an editor, a/an allomorph choice can skip over a parenthetical.
  2. It’s just an error; Barnes and editors would have changed it if they’d noticed it. Maybe Barnes wrote an even more peculiar exchange and inserted to me later, neglecting to change an to a.

Still, it makes me wonder. Are there English speakers for whom the choice between a and an can (or must??) ignore, in some circumstances, what immediately follows? If so, what are the syntactic or prosodic conditions?

And if not–if all English speakers would consider the above example to be an error–how common are speech errors in which the choice between a and an gets locked in before the speaker decides to insert some more material? Does the error’s frequency vary as a function of syntax or prosody? I pose these as serious questions: maybe someone has looked at this, if not for a/an then maybe for a similar case.

What do you think of a/an before um and other hesitations? I can’t decide what I think about these (imagine the following as fairly fluent utterances):

  • It’s a(n), um, strong argument.
  • It’s a(n), um, uneven surface.

(I can imagine at least three possibilities: always use a before um; always use an before um; always act as though the um weren’t there, assuming you’ve already got the next word lined up in your speech plan.)

Should allophones be taught in intro linguistics?

Hello, I just finished teaching UCLA’s “Introduction to Linguistics” course.  This is ten weeks of syntax, morphology, semantics, phonetics, phonology, and historical, and since there are so many topics it all goes by pretty fast.

In the phonology section, I have been dutifully teaching the classical phoneme and how to discover it (that is to say, the collection of minimal pairs and collation of complementary environments for similar sounds).  I would imagine that this is the practice in many other intro courses.

What occurred to me while I was teaching this was that phonemic analysis might better be postponed to a later course such as (at UCLA) “Introduction to Phonology”.  The alternative that I have in mind would be to let the phonology section of Intro Linguistics focus exclusively on phonological alternations and neutralizing rules. 

Continue reading

More on Pinochet

[ Note to regular phonoloblog readers: this is a follow-up on my last Language Log post, on the Chilean Spanish pronunciation of Pinochet. ]

Here is a key for redirected Language Log readers who may not be familiar with phonetic terms and transcriptions. The phonetic value of any other symbols used below should be transparent. (IPA = International Phonetic Alphabet, APA = [North] American[ist] Phonetic Alphabet):

  • The sound that is usually represented orthographically by “ch” in English (as in e.g. chain) is a voiceless postalveolar affricate and is represented as either [ʧ] (IPA) or [č] (APA).
  • The sound that is usually represented orthographically by “sh” in English (as in e.g. shame) is a voiceless postalveolar fricative and is represented as either [ʃ] (IPA) or [š] (APA).
  • The sound that has no single usual orthographic representation in English but is sometimes represented as “zh” (as in e.g. measure) is a voiced postalveolar fricative and is represented as either [ʒ] (IPA) or [ž] (APA).

To double-check my claims about different American Spanish varieties, I first consulted the superb book by D. Lincoln Canfield pictured and on the right. According to the book description, “[t]his book represents the culmination of a lifetime of research in the spoken Spanish dialects of the Americas by one of the foremost experts in this field.” Indeed. Canfield makes the useful organizational decision to devote a separate chapter to the discussion of pronunciation patterns found in each country on the continent (including the U.S.), though he is clear about the fact that differences between varieties of a language do not necessarily respect national boundaries (pp. 20-21). Each chapter includes a map (in some cases, multiple maps) highlighting certain key (geographically-definable) pronunciation patterns. It’s an amazing piece of work, mercifully short (130pp.), and at $14 from, a real steal. (Makes a great gift, too!)

But: this book was published a full generation ago (1981), so it’s getting a little out of date. To supplement this, then, I also consulted the two books pictured and below the fold.

Continue reading


The fourth edition of the Old-World Conference in Phonology (Συνέδριο Φωνολογίας της Γηραιάς Ηπείρου 4) will take held from Jan. 19-21, 2007 on the beautiful island of Rhodes, Greece. The conference will be preceded by a workshop on Vowel Harmony in the Languages of the Mediterranean on January 18. More information on OCP 4, including the programme and all abstracts, can be found on the website of the organisers.

OCP started in Leiden, the Netherlands, in January 2003, as a follow-up to the HILP Conferences in the 1990s. OCP2 took place in Tromsø, Norway, in January 2005, and OCP3 in Budapest, Hungary, in January 2006. Most probably, OCP5 will be organized in Toulouse, France, in January 2008.

One-year phonology position at UCLA

We’ve got a one-year phonology job in my department for next academic year and would like to encourage interested people to apply. The official announcement is as follows:

The UCLA Department of Linguistics is conducting a search to fill a one-year visiting faculty position in the field of phonology. The visitor will teach a normal load of four one-quarter courses (covering both undergraduate and graduate levels) and participate in the meetings and activities of the department’s phonology research group. Salary will be based on the UCLA faculty scale, with benefits according to the standard UCLA benefits package.

Applicants are requested to send materials in hard copy, including vita, cover letter describing experience and interests for both research and teaching, sample papers, and documentation (in any form desired) of teaching record. Applicants should also request three letters of recommendation to be sent from individuals familiar with their work. Please indicate if you will be attending the January meeting of the Linguistic Society of America, where interviews will be conducted. Questions about the position may be directed to the search committee chair at

The address for application materials is: Bruce Hayes, Chair, Phonology Search Committee, Department of Linguistics, UCLA, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1543

Deadline: January 2, 2007.

UCLA is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer.

Review: Phonological Development and Disorders in Children

[ Via LINGUIST List ]

EDITORS: Hua, Zhu; Dodd, Barbara

TITLE: Phonological Development and Disorders in Children

SUBTITLE: A Multilingual Perspective

SERIES: Child Language and Child Development

PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters

YEAR: 2006

ISBN: 1853598895


This volume is a collection of articles describing typical and atypical articulatory and phonological development in a variety of languages of very different types. As part of the Multilingual Matters’ series on Child language and child development: Multilingual-multicultural perspectives, the book aims to use multilingual studies to deepen our understanding of universals of developmental phonology. Its stated aim is “to integrate research on a range of languages to examine phonological acquisition and disorder.”

Continue reading

Grounding the iambic/trochaic law

Trochees tend to be even, iambs are usually uneven. Since Hayes (1985) it is believed that this distinction has a basis in an extralinguistic principle of rhythmic grouping:

  • Elements contrasting in intensity naturally form groupings with initial
  • Elements contrasting in duration naturally form groupings with final

It is believed that this ‘iambic/trochaic law’ reflects a universal cognitive tendency. But new research in musical theory seems to put this into question: adherence to the iambic/trochaic law seems to be partly dependent on the native language of the speaker. A group of researcher led by Aniruddh Patel found that speakers of (American) English conformed to the Iambic/Trochaic Law, but speakers of Japanese do not (see this summary in New Scientist). They argue that this difference in judgement is based on a difference in the syntactic structures of the languages in question, and in consequence that musical (rhythmic) perception is based at least partly on grammar. I suppose this puts into question the argument on the ‘groundedness’ of the iambic trochaic law.

Do speech errors feed phonology?

Earlier today, Geoff Pullum wrote a short post on Language Log about speech errors, based on the following example:

you’re a kind man [knd mæn]
you’re a canned mine [kænd mn]

Geoff concludes his post as follows:

The details of such errors have often been used by phonologists as evidence for phonological structure. After all, if you can accidentally switch the nuclei of two adjacent syllables when you’re very tired, one obvious explanation would be that phonology is not a kind of fiction made up in the process of doing linguistic analysis; rather, there really are syllables, they really have nuclei, and your speech production mechanisms actually operate in a way that, in effect, makes reference to these units.

This made me think about how little I actually know about speech errors and the evidence they provide for phonological structure, apart from the tidbits I discuss in introductory courses (the source of most if not all of these probably being Vicki Fromkin‘s work). Continue reading

What would 'recursion' mean in phonology?

That’s the title of Bob Ladd‘s talk at the Recursion in Human Languages conference, organized by Dan Everett and scheduled to take place in Illinois in late April 2007. (See the full program here; Bob’s talk, scheduled last on Saturday afternoon, is one of only two talks that seem to specifically address phonology.)

I’m glad that a phonetician/phonologist of Bob’s stature and respectability was invited to this conference. I also like the title of his talk (although this may just be the topic of the talk, not the actual title, according to the call for papers — but I hope Bob keeps it).

I’d like to throw this question out to phonologists (those who read phonoloblog, anyway). What do you think ‘recursion’ would mean in phonology? Maybe if we get some good discussion going, we can forward it on to Bob (or invite him to join in on the conversation). Leave your comment below, or if it’s something extensive, consider writing a separate post. (If you’re not already a phonoloblog author, all you have to do is ask me.)

A few more books

Here are a few books recently announced on LINGUIST List of potential interest to phonoloblog readers.

Review: Acquiring a Non-Native Phonology

[ Via LINGUIST List, though for some reason tucked under the incorrect heading Review: Language Acquisition: Sorace et al. (2006) ]

Announced at

AUTHOR: Hansen, Jette G.

TITLE: Acquiring a Non-Native Phonology

SUBTITLE: Linguistic Constraints and Social Barriers

PUBLISHER: Continuum International Publishing Group Ltd

YEAR: 2006

Andrea G. Osburne, Department of English, Central Connecticut State University

The process of adult acquisition of a second language phonology is a lengthy one, which makes it particularly difficult to study. It is hard to follow learners across years and decades to watch the process unfold, so, as the author of this monograph points out, the majority of studies have been synchronic rather than longitudinal. They have therefore focused on more salient transfer and developmental phenomena with less information about long-term processes. Hansen proposes to remedy this situation by reporting on a year-length study of the English phonological acquisition of two adult Vietnamese speakers.

Continue reading

Workshop on Computing and Phonology

[ Via LINGUIST List ]

Date: 08-Dec-2006 – 08-Dec-2006

Location: Groningen, Netherlands

Contact: Tamas Biro

Contact Email:

Meeting URL:

Linguistic Field(s): Computational Linguistics; Phonology

Meeting Description:

A workshop on computational aspects of phonology will be held at the University of Groningen (RUG), the Netherlands, on December 8, 2006. For further information, please visit

The workshop is open to anyone, but we kindly ask you to register not later than December 4. For a provisional program, abstracts and registration, please visit the site. Should you have any question, please feel free to contact Tamás Bíró at

Glottal stops and codas update

Mark Donohue has posted a summary of responses to his original LINGUIST List query on glottal stops and codas (cross-posted here).

Mark adds via e-mail (paragraphs are from two separate messages):

I’m pretty sure some of the New Guinea data I’m looking at shows segmental nasals ONLY appearing in coda positions, phonologically, though due to nasal spreading from nasal vowels they are heard in onsets as well, if there’s no other recourse.

To elaborate briefly on the nasals: in Damal there are three phonetic nasals, predictably [m], [n] and [ŋ]. [ŋ] only ever appears as a coda; [m] and [n] do their best to appear in coda positions always (including VNV sequences), but can be found in onsets if they have to be (#NV# sequences are found), but there’s strong evidence that these are underlying /D/ + nasalised vowel).

Continue reading

More phonolojobs

I’ve just revamped and updated the phonolojobs page (always accessible in the “Pages” area of the sidebar). In case you missed it when I first mentioned it — I lazily buried it in a post about something else, after all — the phonolojobs page is meant to be a place to collect ads for jobs of specific interest to us phono-types. It partially duplicates LINGUIST List in this regard, but I still think it’s helpful (and hope you all think so, too).

The revamping is noted on the phonolojobs page itself so I won’t say anything else about that here (other than to note that it’s As far as the updating goes, I had a little catching up to do — in particular, I heard about three (count ’em, three!) general linguistics jobs at UC Irvine that, as far as I can tell, have not been announced on LINGUIST List or anywhere else that is readily accessible.

Continue reading

Assimilatory /r/ insertion

In an earlier post (7/20/2006), I asked for examples of liquid dissimilation in English, such as omitting /r/ in the(r)mometer, Feb(r)uary, su(r)prise, etc.

There also seem to be cases where an /r/ is inserted into words that already contain an /r/. Some examples I’ve heard or had reported to me include:

  1. farmiliar
  2. contractural
  3. ardurous (the OED gives this as a ‘poetic variant’)
  4. verneer (would you trust this dentist?)
  5. fruneral (African American English)
  6. borogroves (this has entered the epigraphic record, conveniently for future philologists)
  7. perservere
  8. sherbert
  9. phertographer
  10. catergorize
  11. lavartory
  12. Kervorkian
  13. intergral
  14. perjorative

There are also historical examples like cartridge from cartouche, and treasury from thesauria.
This process is interesting because it is the reverse of long-distance dissimilatory loss of /r/. The existence of such a reverse process is predicted by Ohala’s theory that dissimilation results from hypercorrection on the part of the listener. According to this theory, the long-domain acoustic cues of /r/ can cause the listener to be uncertain whether there is one source of rhoticity in the word or two. Errors are possible in either direction.

Has anyone noticed other cases of this?

Vowel harmony at Starbucks?

Here’s an informal and amusing observation about something I keep noticing at Starbucks. I’m a fan of the Venti (= large) Latte. Whenever I order a [vɛnti lɑteɪ], it seems that nine times out of ten, the barista repeats it back to me as [vɛnt lɑteɪ]. And this is from different baristas at many different locations around northern California. Interestingly, I’ve yet to hear anyone say *[vɛnti lɑti]. I don’t usually go for the chocolate espresso, but my hunch is that if I were to order a [vɛnti mokə], the barista would probably repeat it faithfully as [vɛnti mokə], as opposed to *[vɛnt mokə] or, even less likely, *[vɛntə mokə].

Nasometer help

[ Via LINGUIST List ]

Dear Linguists,

I am messaging to see if anyone has had any experience with the Nasometer (Speech Tutor System (Product Code: S/T-S1A)) manufactured and marketed by Glottal Enterprises. I am interested in knowing the following:

1. Is the system reliable for nasalance measurements?

2. Are there any particular faults/characteristics one should be aware of before buying the system?

3. Is the system sturdy enough to be used for field work?


Karthik Durvasula

International Conference on the Linguistics of Contemporary English

[ Via LINGUIST List ]

(This conference grew out of the International Conference on the Phonology of English.)

Full Title: 2nd International Conference on the Linguistics of Contemporary English

Short Title: ICLCE2

Date: 02-Jul-2007 – 04-Jul-2007

Location: Toulouse, France

Contact Person: Jacques Durand

Web Site:

Call Deadline: 30-Jan-2007

Continue reading

Identity within the rhyme

[ Via LINGUIST List ]

In Mamainde, a Northern Nambiquara language of Brazil, a coronal (or ‘default’) coda will always get its place features from the nucleus, even when feature sharing with the following onset would be expected. Nasal codas also share the oral/nasal feature of the nucleus, (often producing oral/nasal contour segments, or pre-oralized nasals).

This raises the slight possibility that these various and seemingly independent instances of feature sharing between nucleus and coda might be linked by the effects of a broader tendency for identicalness within the Rhyme.

I am curious as to whether such a tendency has ever been documented in other languages? Is anyone familiar with any languages where an assimilation rule MUST reference the rhyme (not just the syllable or VC adjacency)?

I am particularly interested in any possible markedness constraint, or other broad phonological motivation, which pertains specifically to the rhyme – holding between the nucleus and the coda, requiring them to be identical in certain ways or share certain features in the output.

A summary of responses will be posted.

Dave Eberhard
S.I.L. field linguist

Phon-stuff at the LSA

Lots of interesting stuff going on at the upcoming Annual Meeting of the LSA in Anaheim in January, as can be appreciated from the 11-page preliminary program. There are lots of regular sessions dedicated to aspects of phonetics or phonology; these are quickly listed below the fold in case you’re interested in scanning them before tackling the whole program. (There are of course also many relevant talks tucked into various other sessions, most of them psycholinguistically-oriented from what I can tell.)

What I want to do here is draw attention to the following special organized sessions of particular interest to phoneticians/phonologists, etc.

  1. Plenary Panel — Phonology: An Appraisal of the Field in 2007
  2. Approaches to Language Complexity
  3. Endangered Languages and Linguistic Theory
  4. Towards an artificial grammar learning paradigm in phonology
  5. Paradigms in Morphological Change
  6. Symposium on Vowel Phonology and Ethnicity

Continue reading

Ha, ha!

[ Via LINGUIST List ]

Interdisciplinary Workshop ‘The Phonetics of Laughter’

Date: 05-Aug-2007 – 05-Aug-2007

Location: Saarbruecken, Germany

Contact Person: Juergen Trouvain

Meeting Email:

Web Site:

Linguistic Field(s): Discourse Analysis; Phonetics

Call Deadline: 16-Mar-2007

Meeting Description:

Research investigating the production, acoustics and perception of laughter is
very rare. This is striking because laughter occurs as an everyday and highly
communicative phonetic activity in spontaneous discourse. This workshop aims to
bring researchers together from various disciplines to present their data,
methods, findings, research questions, and ideas on the phonetics of laughter
(and smiling).

Continue reading

How many consonants?

I was thinking about how many distinct types of consonants there are and came up with a back-of-the-envelope figure of 300. The IPA has about 130 different consonant symbols and then there are some other diacritics and length to factor in, so I guess about 300. Of course that’s assuming that the IPA symbols line up with the actual diversty of consonants.

Has anyone tried a more rigorous quantification?

Review of Rhythmic Grammar

[ Via LINGUIST List ]

AUTHOR: Julia Schlüter
TITLE: Rhythmic Grammar: The influence of rhythm on grammatical variation and
changes in English

SERIES: Topics in English Linguistics
PUBLISHER: Mouton de Gruyter
YEAR: 2005

Reviewed by Mark Campana, Department of English, Kobe City University of Foreign Studies


This book presents a corpus-based test of a simple idea, that English favors an alternating pattern of stressed/non-stressed syllables in word and phrase structure. The Principle of Rhythmic Alternation can be discerned in texts dating from the 16th century to the present, and has (the author argues) influenced the development of the language in subtle ways. It begins by examining the distribution of competing forms, e.g. ‘worse’ and ‘worser’. Although ‘worse’ has always been the suppleted form of ‘bad’, most other comparatives had an –er ending (e.g. ‘richer’), so there was considerable pressure to fill out the paradigm. These two forms competed with each other from late medieval times, but ‘worser’ persisted longer than it should have in prenominal position before eventually dying out. The reason is that ‘worser’ contains an extra (weak) syllable, which the rhythmic grammar favors as a buffer between the stressed syllable of the adjective itself and the typically stressed first syllable of the noun it modifies. ‘Worser’ gave way to ‘worse’ much sooner in other syntactic environments where the specter of a stress clash did not arise. In other words, the preference for rhythmic alternation tipped the scales in favor of one syntactic variant over another.

Continue reading

Glottal stops and codas

A query from Mark Donohue, via LINGUIST List:

Dear all,

Glottal stops in north Australian languages are phonotactically constrained to only appear in codas; some languages of adjacent Indonesia with glottal stops either show restrictions on their position (Sawu/Hawu: glottal stops cannot begin words) or evidence for repositioning (Palu’e: glottal stops cannot begin a word, and vowels preceding a medial glottal stop show closed-syllable allophones.

Does anyone know of anything addressing the position in which glottal stops may appear? I’m not talking about initial epenthetic glottal stops in languages such as Tagalog, but underlying segments that appear to disfavour onset realisations.

-Mark Donohue
Monash University

Korean Phonology

[ Via LINGUIST List ]

Title: Korean Phonology: A Principle-based Approach
Series Title: LINCOM Studies in Asian Linguistics 12
Published: 2006
Publisher: Lincom GmbH

Author: Duck-Young Lee
Paperback: ISBN: 3895862207 Pages: 250 Price: Europe EURO 69.10


This book presents an attempt to investigate major issues in Korean phonology in terms of principles and elements, based on the framework of Government Phonology. It begins with an introductory section, describing central aspects of the framework, which include recent development in the theory with regard to the representation of ATR and coronals. An analysis of a wide range of data in Korean phonology is then provided. In dealing with data involving vowels, the study first discusses vowel harmony, which has traditionally been treated as the result of the harmonic opposition between ‘light vowels’ and ‘dark vowels’. It address some unsolved problems in previous analyses by proposing a phonological operation called ‘A-head alignment’. This will be followed by an element-based analysis of vowel coalescence and diphthongisation.

Continue reading


[ Via LINGUIST List ]

Title: Tyvan
Series Title: Languages of the World/ Materials 257
Published: 2006
Publisher: Lincom GmbH

K. David Harrison
, Yale University; Gregory David Anderson, University of Manchester
Loose Leaf: ISBN: 389586529X Pages: 80 Price: Europe EURO 42.00


Tyvan (aka Tuvan/Tuvinian) is spoken by 150-200,000 people in the Republic of Tyva in south centra Siberia. Tyvan (along with the closely related Tofalar) stand out among the Turkic languages in several ways. Tyvan has three sets of phonemic vowels: plain, long, and creaky voice. Word-initially obstruents exhibit a contrast between unaspirated/aspirated or voiced/voiceless, depending on the speaker. There is also a phonemically marginal series of long nasalized vowels. Tyvan has only one inflectional series for verbs, prefering enclitic pronominals in most forms (in main clauses).

Continue reading

What a difference some static makes

Just in case you haven’t been following it, there’s an interesting thread developing on Language Log about the issue of whether Neil Armstrong said “one small step for man” or “one small step for a man”, complete with waveforms and spectrograms and other things of phonolo-interest.

  1. One
    small step backwards
  2. One
    75-millisecond step before a “man”
  3. Armstrong’s abbreviated article: the smoking gun?
  4. Armstrong’s abbreviated article: notes from the expert
  5. First
    Korean on the moon!
  6. What
    Neil Armstrong said
  7. Armstrong’s abbreviated article: Peter Shann Ford responds


In case you missed it on the Optimal List:

Dear Colleagues,

Here’s a reminder that the deadline for submitting an abstract to GLOW XXX is November 1, 2006.

Our general session has no theme and phonology papers are of course welcome there. There will be a minimum of one full day of phonology at the general session. Our keynote speaker for the general session will be Noam Chomsky. (Note that GLOW XXX coincides with the 50th anniversary of the publication of Syntactic Structures!)

We will also have a one-day workshop in phonology, at which Keren Rice will be our keynote speaker. The topic of this workshop is: The structure of segment inventories.

(The conference also includes a syntax workshop on Selective Global Comparison, and an acquisition workshop on Children’s Acquisition of Variable Word Order. Tell your friends!)

The GLOW board decided in Barcelona that authors may not submit identical abstracts to the workshop and the general session.

Although we cannot make a firm commitment until replies to grant notifications arrive in December, we plan to subsidize speakers at the workshop as well as speakers at the general session.

The GLOW XXX website — which includes details about abstract preparation and submission — can be visited at

We hope you’ll join us in Tromsø April 11-14 and we look forward to seeing your abstract! (For more about Tromsø, go to

Precedence Relationships in Phonological Grammar

[ Via LINGUIST List, somewhat reorganized and with links added ]

Full Title: Precedence Relationships in Phonological Grammar

Date: 25-Jan-2007 – 26-Jan-2007
Location: New York, New York, USA
Contact Person: Chuck Cairns
Meeting Email: ccairns -x- (-x- = at)
Web Site:

Linguistic Field(s): Cognitive Science; Phonology

Call Deadline: 10-Nov-2006

Meeting Description:

Precedence Relationships in Phonological Grammar

The CUNY Phonology Forum presents a conference focused on investigating all aspects of precedence (temporal or sequential) relationships in phonology. The conference will bring together subdivisions of cognitive science such as formal linguistics, language acquisition, neurolinguistics, philosophy, psychology, etc. to create a broad survey of the issues, successes and approaches in understanding the nature of precedence in phonology. (We use the terms “precedence,” “temporal” and “sequential” interchangeably below to keep the area of interest broad.)

Continue reading

Phonetics and Phonology in Iberia (PaPI) 2007

[ Via LINGUIST List, with some corrections made and links added ]

Phonetics and Phonology in Iberia (PaPI) 2007

Date: June 25-26, 2007
Location: University of Minho, Braga, Portugal
Web Site:

Call Deadline: March 1, 2007

Meeting Description:

The third PaPI conference will be hosted by Universidade do Minho in June 25-26, 2007. Phonetics and Phonology in Iberia (PaPI) is an international conference aiming to bring together researchers interested in all areas of phonetics and phonology, with a special focus on the relationship between the two.

Continue reading

Syncope in the Verbal Prefixes of Tlingit: Meter and Surface Phonotactics

[ Via LINGUIST List ]

Title: Syncope in the Verbal Prefixes of Tlingit
Subtitle: Meter and Surface Phonotactics
Series Title: LINCOM Studies in Native American Linguistics 53
Published: 2006
Publisher: Lincom GmbH

Author: Seth Cable, MIT
Paperback: ISBN: 389586377 Pages: 84 Price: Euro 84.00


This study presents an extended discussion and analysis of a seemingly idiosyncratic syncope process governing the verbal prefix string of Tlingit, a highly endangered and understudied Na-Dene language of Southeast Alaska and Northern British Columbia.

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Laboratory Phonology 8

[ Via LINGUIST List ]

Title: Laboratory Phonology 8
Series Title: Phonology and Phonetics 4-2
Published: 2006
Publisher: Mouton de Gruyter (Book URL)

Editors: Louis Goldstein, Yale University; Douglas H. Whalen, Haskins Laboratories; Catherine T. Best, MARCS Auditory Laboratories
Hardback: ISBN: 3110176785 Pages: 675 Price: U.S. $ 159.30, Euro 118.00


This collection of papers from Eighth Conference on Laboratory Phonology (held in New Haven, CT) explores what laboratory data that can tell us about the nature of speakers’ phonological competence and how they acquire it, and outlines models of the human phonological capacity that can meet the challenge of formalizing that competence. The window on the phonological capacity is broadened by including, for the first time in the Laboratory Phonology series, work on signed languages and papers that explicitly compare signed and spoken phonologies.

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Possible and probable languages

This new book (just announced on LINGUIST List) is not about phonology (at least I don’t think it is, given who wrote it and from what I can tell from the blurb). But I think it’s of particular relevance to (present-day) phonologists.

(I’m hoping that my semi-random thoughts on this below will generate some discussion here, especially if someone (else) decides to read the book.)

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Markedness: Reduction and Preservation in Phonology

[ Via LINGUIST List ]

Title: Markedness
Subtitle: Reduction and Preservation in Phonology
Series Title: Cambridge Studies in Linguistics 112
Published: 2006
Publisher: Cambridge University Press

Author: Paul de Lacy, Rutgers University
Hardback: ISBN: 0521839629 Pages: 466 Price: U.S. $ 99.00
Hardback: ISBN: 0521839629 Pages: 466 Price: U.K. £ 55.00


‘Markedness’ refers to the tendency of languages to show a preference for particular structures or sounds. This bias towards ‘marked’ elements is consistent within and across languages, and tells us a great deal about what languages can and cannot do. This pioneering study presents a groundbreaking theory of markedness in phonology. De Lacy argues that markedness is part of our linguistic competence, and is determined by three conflicting mechanisms in the brain:
(a) pressure to preserve marked sounds (‘preservation’),
(b) pressure to turn marked sounds into unmarked sounds (‘reduction’), and
(c) a mechanism allowing the distinction between marked and unmarked sounds to be collapsed (‘conflation’).

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Prosody-Syntax Interface Workshop

[ via LINGUIST List ]

Prosody-Syntax Interface Workshop
Run by the Centre for Human Communication, UCL

Friday 6th October 2006, 9.00 – 6.00

Keynote Speakers: Mark Steedman, Elisabeth Selkirk

All speakers (in order of talks): Fernanda Ferreira, Nicole Dehé and Vieri Samek-Lodovici, Sam Hellmuth, Mark Steedman, Lisa Cheng and Laura Downing, Hubert Truckenbrodt, Elisabeth Selkirk

Links to: program, registration, location.

Where to put useful stuff: a call for help

As you all know, Marc van Oostendorp has been posting several useful links lately: first a link to Toshi Shiraishi’s recent Groningen dissertation on Nivkh phonology, then one to Tobias Sheer’s bibliographic web-library of papers on the phonology/morphosyntax interface, then one to the ConstraintCatalogue developed by Marc, Curt Rice, and Nathan Sanders, and most recently one to Julien Eychenne’s WYSIWYG tableau editor for LaTeX.

This is an interesting mix of useful stuff that I don’t think I would have heard about anywhere else. Shiraishi’s dissertation was (somewhat later) announced on LINGUIST List, but that’s about it — although LINGUIST List is a great resource, probably even in ways I haven’t taken advantage of yet, it’s not the place I imagine I’m going to (easily) find this kind of collection of useful stuff. (If you disagree, please comment!)

One good reason why a “one-stop shop” of resources like these would be useful to have was made clear in the comments on Marc’s most recent post: there are at least two other LaTeX tableau editors out there — the latter developed almost 10 years ago. If I were about to (decide to) embark on a programming project like this, I think I’d find it useful to know whether I was about to reinvent the wheel so that I don’t waste too much of my time.

So what should this one-stop shop be?

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OT tableaux seem to be designed with WYSIWYG editors, such as Word or WordPerfect or OpenOffice in mind. They do not come as natural to those linguists using e.g. LaTeX; it is too easy make a lot of mistakes in where one should put asterisks, etc.

Julien Eychenne, a phonology student who is finishing his PhD thesis in Toulouse right now, has written a small programme which works as a small WYSIWYG editor, just for tableaux: OTableau. Next to generating LaTeX output, the programme also calculates ‘fatal’ violations, and places exclamation marks and shading (if desired) accordingly. It’s a nice little programme.

ConCat: A catalogue of constraints

During the second week of the PhonologyFest, earlier this year in Bloomington, Indiana, I shared an apartment with Curt Rice. One night he told me that he had a plan: wouldn’t it be nice to have a catalogue of OT constraints as they have been proposed in the literature? The IPA Guide has a list of symbols, with explanations how they are used, etc.; wouldn’t it be convenient to have such a book for constraints as well? So that you could look up who first proposed a constraint, what the alternatives are, how the constraints had been formalized by various authors, whether there have been similar proposals outside the OT literature, etc.

Talking about this a little bit further, we decided it should be a Wiki rather than a book — a website where everybody can contribute, add constraints, add background information, etc.

During the summer I wrote a few lemmas, in particular I write a first version for a page for the Onset constraint, plus several things which would be linked to such a page. In the mean time, Nathan Sanders, a graduate student at the University of Indiana, installed a Wiki server. We have now opened it.

Do you think this is a good idea? What are possible extensions? You can join ConCat and start building it with us.

Ceci n’est pas phonoblog

Lots of folks think this blog is called phonoblog instead of phonoloblog, which was enough of a problem that I made the URL automatically redirect to (I won’t do the same with; that costs money. A paltry sum, sure, but I have to draw the line somewhere.)

Just to be clear: this is not phonoblog. This is. (Thanks to David Beaver for the link.)

Phonological Bases of Phonological Features

Looks like the good folks in Tromsø are having another workshop at the end of the month. (Via LINGUIST List.)

(And speaking of LINGUIST List: check out the new phonolojobs page. You’ll find it permanently in the list of pages over in the sidebar.)

This two-day workshop brings together phonologists from Tromsø with invited speakers to discuss what the phonological bases of phonological features are, as opposed to the phonetic bases stressed in much contemporary research on distinctive features. Can a purely functional approach to features explain patterns and alternations found in the world’s languages, or is there an irreducible abstract phonological core underlying them? Invited speakers are Peter Avery (York), Laura Downing (ZAS) and Wolfgang Kehrein (Amsterdam). There is no call for papers but interested people are welcome to join and discuss the issues.

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The problem with "the dictionary" as arbiter

I missed the Weekend Edition Sunday Puzzle last week, but (as usual) the answer to last week’s challenge was broadcast this week. Here‘s what the challenge was:

In most words containing the letter “O” between two consonants, the O is either pronounced as a long O or a short O. Can you name a common word in which O appears between two consonants and the O is pronounced like a short “i”?

The answer is not surprising, but I’m a little annoyed by the reasoning used to justify the claim that the answer is unique.

Answer: Women (Words such as cinnamon, pivot, parrot, ribbon, common, havoc and cotton are what the dictionary calls “schwas” or words with an unstressed vowel sound. Therefore the only correct answer is “women.”)

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Little Interface Library

Tobias Scheer (in Nice, France) is working on a book on the interface between phonology and morpho-syntax. For this, he has also reconstructed the history of phonological thinking about this topic, and read almost everything which was written on it for the past 60 years — at least, that is what I believe.

This work has produced already an interesting result: Tobias’ Little Interface Library, a part of his website where he has collected pdf versions of many, many articles on the topic, including papers by Selkirk or Gussman or Nespor & Ralli which are hard to find, because they appeared in Working Papers or minor journals.

Topics in Nivkh Phonology

In order to obtain a PhD in the Netherlands one traditionally submits not just a dissertation but also a list of approximately ten stellingen, i.e. ‘theses’ or ‘propositions’ of one or two sentences each. A few of these summarise the main themes of the book, but there are also a few which have a broader outlook.

Toshi Shiraishi will defend his dissertation Topics in Nivkh Phonology next week in Groningen. His 7th thesis is:

  • Fieldwork linguists should be more occupied with theoretical linguistics, and theoretical linguists more with fieldwork linguistics.

Toshi’s own work is a good illustration of how fruitful it can be to do fieldwork with a solid theoretical background, and work on the theory with a good grasp of the problems with the data. He spent a lot of time on the island of Sakhalin, in the Russian Far East, where the language is still spoken by a few hundred older people. But he did not just randomly collect data: his dissertation contributes to at least two important topical debates in current theory: about the precise representation of laryngeal contrasts, and about the phonology-syntax interface (since Nivkh has an interesting process of consonant mutation, which according to Shiraishi occurs at the edges of syntactic phrases).

The text of the dissertation is available here.

OCP 4 update

According to this LINGUIST List posting, the abstract deadline for the 4th Old World Conference on Phonology (OCP 4), to be held in Rhodes (Jan. 19-21, 2007), has been extended until Sept. 7 (one week from Thursday). The conference is preceded by a one-day workshop (on Jan. 18) on “Harmony in the Languages of the Mediterranean”. The invited speakers for the conference are Outi Bat-El, Junko Ito, Armin Mester, and Moira Yip.

Survey: Important results in phonology

What do you think are the most important results in phonology? What have we learned and why is it important?

I spend a lot of time with non-academics and so I’m often pressed to explain what phonology is and why anyone should care. Beyond, “all knowledge is interesting” and vague statements about cognition or computer applications I sometimes have a hard time figuring out what to say. What are your thoughts?


In case you missed the call on LINGUIST List, Andries Coetzee is organizing a workshop on Experimental Approaches to Optimality Theory at UMich, with René Kager and Joe Pater as invited speakers. From the call for papers:

Over the past few decades, experimental data have been used increasingly as evidence in phonological theorizing. This is no less true of Optimality Theory (OT) as is evidenced by the growing body of OT literature that uses experimental data. The purpose of this workshop is twofold. On the one hand, we want to investigate the extent to which experimental data can be used to fine-tune OT analyses. On the other hand, we want to consider the challenges that non-categorical experimental data may pose to OT.

[…] For the purpose of this workshop, we give a broad interpretation to “experimental approaches”, so that it includes experiments as diverse as psycholinguistic/processing tasks (word-likeness, phoneme identification, lexical decision, etc.), as well acoustic/articulatory experiments. We also do not want to limit contributions to papers that argue for OT. Papers that use experimental evidence to point out shortcomings of OT are equally welcome. Lastly, it is not required that a submission contributes new experimental data. Papers that deal with the general challenges posed to OT by non-categorical experimental data can also be submitted.

Truncated berries

My wife Karen talks funny, and it’s often of more than passing linguistic interest. Most recently, she has taken to calling different berries by the following truncated names:

  • blueberries [blu:bɛɹi:z] → bluebs [blu:bz]
  • strawberries [stɹɔ:bɛɹi:z] → strawbs [stɹɔ:bz]
  • raspberries [ɹæspbɛɹi:z] or [ɹæzbɛɹi:z] → raspbs [ɹæspəbz]

It’s the last one that interested me the most, so I asked Karen how she’d handle boysenberries [bɔɪzənbɛɹi:z]. She thought about it, at first said [bɔɪzənbz] and decided that couldn’t be right, then settled on [bɔɪzənɪbz].

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Some thoughts on length

Here’s just some thoughts I’ve been mulling over on representing segment length. I’d love to get feedback. I’m a bit rusty since I haven’t really thought hard about phonology for a couple of years.

It seems that representational theories of segment length (two-root theory or moraic theory) are pretty good at addressing some basic properties of long segments. For example, in some cases length is preserved (compensatory lengthening) when the segment degeminates. That fact makes sense if the length is represented as double linking to a timing slot and degemination is simply unlinking to the extra slot, leaving it free to relink somewhere more hospitable.

But, an interesting issue with both two-root theory and moraic theory is that length really seems to be a binary distinction. Continue reading

Phonetics in grammar

New discussion initiated on LINGUIST List by Heriberto Avelino:

Recently, I was part of a discussion regarding an issue that I thought was uncontroversial. However, it seems that this is not as straightforward as I first thought. The debate is about the place of phonetics in the study of ‘grammar’. More precisely, whether the study of sound patterns using phonetic methodologies and techniques falls within the broad scope of the term ‘grammar’.

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Embedded sound files

This LINGUIST List post reminds me of two of the very first posts on phonoloblog two years ago (here and here).

Which reminds me — it’s almost phonoloblog‘s second birthday!

Dear Colleagues,

Often the nature of a speech phenomenon can be communicated so much better
with the use of an example. Does anybody know of journals in linguistics
(or subfields of) that offer the option to embed sound files in the
electronic (pdf or html) version of papers?

I’ll post a summary.


Bert Remijsen

Wondering at the natural fecundity of things

In case you missed the announcement on the Optimal List of the posting on the Rutgers Optimality Archive, Junko Ito, John McCarthy and I recently finished editing an online collection of papers written in honor of Alan Prince on the occasion of his 60th birthday (on June 20).

This Festschrift is hosted on the University of California’s eScholarship Repository, under the banner of UC Santa Cruz’s Linguistics Research Center. Right now it is only available electronically, but we have plans to make hardcopies available on demand via BookSurge (preparation for which is much more complicated than you might think). [ Update, 8/31 — the book can now be purchased for $18.99 (+ shipping) from — end update ]

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Sound patterns database

[ Via LinguistList. ]

P-base is a searchable database of 8000+ sound patterns as reported in grammars of 628 varieties of 549 spoken languages, which represent all grammars found on the shelves in the libraries of The Ohio State University and Michigan State University during 2003 and 2004 (Library of Congress PA-PM).

The database was collected for my dissertation and will be distributed by Oxford with the book version of it. It will also remain freely downloadable. I am looking for people to provide feedback on the program and the data in it.

The beta version of the program can be downloaded from

Please send questions and comments to

. Let me know how the database and interface could be made more useful to you in terms of features or content.

Jeff Mielke

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Remarks and replies

In case you haven’t been following this virtual thread:

  1. Bill Idsardi‘s six-page paper “A simple proof that Optimality Theory is computationally intractable” appeared in the latest issue of LI (vol. 37, 271-275).
  2. András Kornai has a one-page reply (“Is OT NP-hard?”) on ROA.
  3. Idsardi has a three-page rejoinder (“Misplaced optimism”), also on ROA.
  4. Update: And another by Kornai (“Guarded optimism”).

This is exactly the sort of thing that should be happening on ROA (and, I would hope, also here on phonoloblog).

More opaque feeding

(This is kind of a follow-up on this post from last year.)

Speaking of McCarthy’s GLOW talk (related handout here): I got interested in an example of feeding discussed there. Ignoring melodic details, the two rules are:

Vowel Epenthesis: Ø –> V / #__CC
Consonant Epenthesis: Ø –> C / #__V

Interestingly, the generalization expressed by Vowel Epenthesis is rendered non-surface-apparent (opaque) by Consonant Epenthesis: the consonant cluster is no longer word-initial. In other words, Vowel Epenthesis appears to overapply. This is another example of an opaque feeding interaction, except in this case the right interaction is easily statable in OT (which is particularly interesting given that non-surface-apparent opacity is generally problematic for OT).

Is there some other way to state the rules that avoids this opaque feeding interaction? I can think of three basic alternatives. Continue reading

GLOW Workshop #2 summary report

The 29th GLOW Colloquium was held April 6-9 in Barcelona, preceded by a day of workshops on April 5. The following is a brief report on Workshop 2: Approaches to phonological opacity — and I hope someone who attended all of Workshop 3: Prosodic phrasing, or the one day of phonology talks at GLOW on April 6, will follow suit.

(Unfortunately, I don’t have time to do more than briefly summarize and provide links here, so sorry, no commentary.)

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After months of debate (with myself) over whether it was worthwhile, I’ve finally decided to go ahead and secure the domain name for phonoloblog. I decided not to pay the extra $$ for the Big Three package (as Language Log did, with .org, .com, and .net), and even though there are plenty folks out there who have mistaken us for “phonoblog“, I also decided not to pay extra $$ for that variant.

For now, visiting will just redirect to, with this change reflected in the address bar of your browser. Eventually I’ll work out how best to work out the virtual paths given the particular set-up I have.

fas pt. 2

Last week I wrote about a segment on Foreign Accent Syndrome I saw on ABC Primetime, hoping to make two general points: one, about why the word “foreign” has come to be used as a label for the condition, and two, whether the condition relates to motor control or linguistic knowledge. This post is intended partly as an update concerning the above second point. I’ve also been contacted by a reader whose cousin is an FAS patient, and the details she provides of his case can certainly enrich the discussion. Continue reading

"foreign" accent syndrome

OK, I just finished watching a segment on ABC Primetime about Foreign Accent Syndrome, a condition I’d heard of, but until now I hadn’t had the opportunity to hear speakers with it. Anecdotal evidence of FAS usually identifies an adult English speaker suddenly (usually following trauma) adopting a foreign accent, and being unable to speak using his or her natural accent. Interestingly, these patients are sometimes characterized as sounding like particular foreign accents or other English dialects. The textbook case is of a woman in England who suddenly sounded German after a head injury during the blitz. The two patients on the ABC segment were associated as sounding Russian in one case and French in another. Hopefully this link will work.

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Last night Jon Stewart cracked a Cheney-heart-condition-joke with “defibulators” as the punch line. Now I’m not one to judge, but I had to point it out. Despite the 29K ghits that “defibulator” gets, and the 12K ghits that “defibulators” gets, Google still asks you if you mean “defibrillator(s)”. Oxford lists defibrillator under defibrillation.

There’s a parallel here with vascillations like nuclear/nucular and parap[a]legic, discussed a while back by Arnold Zwicky on Language Log and Eric Bakovic on phonoloblog. Continue reading

Small paper, big names

The New York Observer, a small paper in New York City, has an article today on the “City Girl Squawk“. The particular dialect features they’re discussing don’t come across very well in the article, but at least they played clips when getting quotes from the prominent linguists they interviewed: Bert Vaux, John Singler, Bill Labov, and Walt Wolfram.

At NYU, we sometimes get requests from the media to talk about different aspects of linguistics (e.g. why some names, like “Bennifer” or “Brangelina”, make good blends.) Since these requests have come from New York Newsday or even from Fox News, I think sometimes we’re wary about being portrayed negatively or in a “gee whiz, look at that stuff they study!” kind of way. But this article does a good job of using experts to shed light on a pop culture phenomenon that intersects with the academic world.

Harsh consonants

David Pogue, Technology/Circuits columnist for The New York Times, has a review of the new Apple laptop with the Intel Core Duo chip, called the MacBook Pro. Apple’s high-end laptop line has for a long time now been known as PowerBook, and Pogue has this to say about the “inexplicable” name change:

Why do Mac fans despise the new name so much? Partly because all those harsh consonants — K, K, P — make the name uglier and harder to say.

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continuing phonetics-phonology discussion

I’m adding this post in light of Eric’s plea regarding comments and posts – many comments on recent posts in phonoloblog have been quite involved, enough for Eric to suggest that contributors make new posts instead of long comments. Marc and Travis have taken this advice, but (so far) I have not – I added a long comment to Marc’s post regarding Port & Leary’s Language article, only because it directly follows up on comments from both Port and Leary.

To make up for it, I’ve made this post just to alert readers that comment threads are continuing in some of these recent phonoloblog posts.

Labov on NPR

In case you missed it on Language Log:

Robert Siegel interviewed Bill Labov on All Things Considered, 2/16/2006: “American Accent Undergoing Great Vowel Shift“. Siegel is an intelligent and skillful interviewer, and Bill gives a terrific performance. Listen to it!

Yeah, do that.

P.S. Why do radio stories on language variation always have to play the “you say [tʰəmeɪɾoʊ], I say [tʰəmɑ:ɾoʊ]” song???

"Lexical listing" and hybrid approaches

I appreciate the critical analysis that Adam Ussishkin and Natasha Warner make of my posting, A Leap of Faith? Their proposed typology of research questions is an explicit and detailed follow-up that clarifies many issues that my original posting had only left implicit. Regarding the questionable relationship among Steps 3, 4, and 5, I believe that I had already acknowledged, in response to ACW’s initial comment, that to make such a leap is indeed an unwarranted oversimplification.
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On the vagaries of the market and the field

In their interesting (and well-worth reading) comment on Travis Bradley’s “A leap of faith?” post, Adam Ussishkin and Natasha Warner express the following suspicion (emphasis added):

There exist a fair number of papers where people have done an interesting experiment, discussed the interesting implications of the finding, and then added a theoretical discussion involving constraints and tableaux in order to make it a phonology paper. We suspect that this sometimes occurs purely in the interests of the job market. […]

There also exist papers of a different sort, where the writer has a formal phonological analysis of some formal phonological question. They then add a small amount of experimental data or cite someone else’s experimental data (possibly overgeneralizing from it), in order to have the formal theory backed up by phonetic experimental evidence. This is formal phonology with an overlay of phonetic data, and it may also occur in the interests of the job market sometimes.

Let me say up front that I tend to agree with this suspicion, so long as the crucial “sometimes” is not left out. Adam and Natasha don’t specifically comment on what it is about (being on) the job market in particular that invites this sort of hybrid work, but the implication is clear enough: the job candidate either feels or is made to feel that they must appeal to experimental folks on the one hand and theoretical folks on the other. This way, there’s something for everyone. Right?

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Comments vs. posts

I’m thrilled about the discussion generated by recent phonoloblog posts by Travis Bradley and Marc van Oostendorp. For those phonoloblog readers who may be reading this blog in the “traditional” way, simply checking every so often for new posts: comments on particular posts are not as obvious as they could be from the main page — especially new comments on older posts — so you may be missing some interesting discussion.

I suggest two things to remedy this. Continue reading

Phonetic character input for WordPress

In the second post that I made on this blog back in July 2004, I provided a link to a page of html character codes in order to copy-and-paste those codes into posts and comments on phonoloblog (or on any other website, for that matter). Trochee wrote very soon thereafter to note a few other relevantly useful links, most notably this one. But I hate switching back and forth between pages, copying-and-pasting. So I ended the post with a plea for “[s]omeone to suggest and/or provide something better than having to type in (or copy-and-paste) character codes for this purpose.”

The plea has gone unanswered all this time, but we finally have something. Read on.

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A leap of faith?

Back in October 2005, there was a discussion about the anti-OT bias of some derivational phonologists. In his book manuscript, Andrea Calabrese had alleged that “magical thinking” is especially common among those OT practitioners who would “attempt to provide a synchronic explanation to all aspects of the phonology of a language.” It was pointed out in the discussion that the magical thinking actually dates back to SPE and is still present to some degree in Calabrese’s own work.
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Reviewers wanted!

If I had more time, I’d want to review at least one of these five books recently announced as “available for review” on LinguistList (listed here in the order in the announcement):

  1. Burzio’s Principles of English Stress (CUP, 2005; apparently an update/revision of the 1994 edition),
  2. Coleman’s Phonological Representations: Their Names, Forms and Powers (CUP, 2005),
  3. Giegerich’s Lexical Strata in English: Morphological Causes, Phonological Effects (CUP, 2005),
  4. Silverman’s A Critical Introduction to Phonology: Of Sound, Mind, and Body (Continuum, 2005),
  5. Newman’s Coursebook in Feature Geometry (LINCOM, 2003).

I don’t have time, but maybe a phonoloblog reader out there does, and I’ll be happy to cross-post.

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The jug trade

Whenever I’ve taught phonetics, I’ve been mildly uncomfortable about the fact that many if not most of the phonetics texts that I have to consult, even ones with a decided focus on English and relatively narrow transcriptions, don’t really note that /tr/ and /dr/ clusters are pronounced with an initial affricate of some sort (as opposed to a stop, that is). When I have seen some mention of this, the voiceless cluster is transcribed as [ʧr] and (more narrowly?) as [ʈʂɹ].

It’s such an easily observable phenomenon, and a student or two typically asks me about it before I have a chance to mention it in class myself. A wee small bit of the research on this phenomenon can be found with a quick web search (which I cite below the fold — if you know of more, please comment). Some of this research is concerned more specifically with the “retracted /s/” in /str/ clusters observed in some varieties of American English.

Unfortunately, there’s no standard way to test whether there’s an underlying /tr/~/ʧr/ contrast (or /d/~/ʤ/, in the voiced case) that is (nearly-)neutralized by this affrication. But President Bush committed a wonderful speech error in his State of the Union address earlier this evening that must say something about either the perception or the implementation (or both) of these clusters.

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For some reason I’ve been giving some thought to this brief report that, come Fall, the struggling television networks UPN (owned by CBS) and the WB (owned by Warner Bros., natch) will merge to form a new network “whose name, CW, is meant to be a combination of CBS and Warner”. Is it just me, or does “CW” (or “the CW”, like “the WB” is more widely known) just sound like a stupid name for a television network?

I ended up discussing this last night with a non-linguist friend, who shares my intuition, and we entertained the following hypotheses about why this new network name doesn’t work for us. Continue reading

Peter Ladefoged

It’s a sad day for the entire profession. As soon as I find an obituary, I’ll post. Done — see below. In the meantime, here are a few pages noting Peter’s passing this week at the age of 80.

You may also be interested in reading about Ladefoged’s career in his own words (.pdf), which appears to have been written sometime within the last few years.

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Whistled languages: phonology and Unesco

The most recent issue of Phonology (22.2) contains an article by Annie Rialland about the phonetics and phonology of a number of so-called ‘whistled languages’ (Rialland’s website has a prefinal version as a pdf).

In some sense, whistled languages use the phonology of a spoken language, such as Spanish in the case of the most well-known instance of this type of language, Silbo Gomero from one of the Canary Islands, La Gomera. Yet they implement this phonology in a radically different way — by whistling rather than moving organs in the vocal tract. Since this special type articulatory phonetics is more limited than the usual one, this in turn influences the phonology somewhat. All of this can be found in Rialland’s fascinating article.

The topic of whistled languages is also very suitable for explaining some basic principles of the phonetics-phonology interface. When I needed to write something for a Dutch popular science website for adolescents, I therefore took Rialland’s article as my basis. Spanish has a five vowel system, and Rialland shows that these vowels can be distinguished on the basis of F2 alone; it is the F2 which is whistled in Silbo Gomero. This fact can be used as a handle to explain what formants are, and what a vowel system is; here is the article I wrote (in Dutch, obviously).

I notified Rialland of the fact that I published this piece, and here is what she answered:

This paper will also serve an unexpected function for you: the Government of the Canary Islands is currently trying to get a recognition of Silbo (and also other whistled languages) as a patrimony of humanity by UNESCO. All of the papers in scientific journals (of any age) will help.

Explaining phonology to young people can have unexpected political consequences.

Third Old-World Conference in Phonology

The third Old-World Conference in Phonology (OCP3) in Budapest has just finished. The programme had a number of very high-quality talks in a variety of different phonological frameworks, and the atmosphere was very good.

I will not give an overview of all talks — here is the conference website, including all the abstracts, but I felt that one could see two opposing trends in this OCP. Continue reading

It's a long way from Boston to New York

Here’s an interesting article in today’s NYT about NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s apparent shift from his native Boston accent (more evident when he was first elected in 2002) to one that is more characteristic of New York (more evident now). A number of American English dialect experts, including sociolinguist Bill Labov and dialect coach Paul Meier, were recruited to analyze and compare Bloomberg’s 2002 inauguration speech with his 2006 inauguration speech. (If you look along the left-hand side of the article online, you’ll see a multimedia audio link, with commentary by the article’s author Sam Roberts and the two inauguration speeches.)

The article’s focus — and perhaps the focus of the analyses by these various experts — is on three aspects of pronunciation:

  1. the vowel in words like last: more central/back in Boston ([a/ɑ]), more front in New York ([æ]);

  2. the vowel in words like lost: more central/unrounded in Boston (“ah”/[a]), more back/rounded in New York (“aw”/[ɔ]);

  3. the unstressed vowel in words like father: the r-less variant is apparently less stigmatized in Boston than in New York, and Bloomberg is apparently more r-ful in 2006 than he was in 2002.

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Karen and I like to listen to the puzzle on Weekend Edition Sunday. In case you’ve never heard it, the format is like this: first, New York Times puzzle editor Will Shortz reminds listeners of the previous week’s puzzle challenge, for which everyone has had a chance to submit a solution by Thursday. A respondent with the correct answer is chosen at random to solve a set of small word puzzles on the air (and gets some puzzle-related prizes), and then another challenge is given to listeners for the following week. It’s a fun 10-or-so minutes of public radio.

It’s not atypical for the on-air puzzles and puzzle challenges to involve thinking about how words sound as opposed to how they’re spelled; Will typically distinguishes the sound-based puzzles by noting that the relevant aspect(s) of the puzzle should be considered “phonetically”. Not that I’ve been paying a ton of attention — and of course, we often don’t solve the puzzle challenge and fail to listen the following week — but I can’t remember ever thinking that the sense of “phonetic” Will uses is misleading or anything like that. Until this morning.

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Pronounce this

Over on Language Log, Geoff Pullum illustrates the (apparently important) distinction between an acronym — a word “composed of the initial letters of a phrase” such that “you can read out the initial letters as if they were a word” — and an abbreviation (the same as an acronym, except it’s not pronounceable as a word).

I agree that FTBSITTTD looks pretty unpronounceable, but then again, I would have thought that fhqwhgads is unpronounceable, but now I know that it’s (something like) [fəˈhʌg(ə)wəˌgadz]. So how about the pronunciation [fəˈtʌbsɪtəˌtʌd] — or just [fəˈtʌbsɪt] — for FTBSITTTD? It could happen.

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Benjamin Kite — who I suspect was prompted by my last post — writes to ask:

I’m presently teaching spoken English to Chinese nationals and have been noticing the intrusion of an r-like consonant into words which contain schwas and other close-mid-to-open-mid vowels, especially followed by sibilants. Common examples are:

     “famous” /fe mɝs/

     “because” /bi kɔrz/

     “Christmas” /kris mɝs/

and sometimes

     “question” /kwɛs tʃɝn/

I’m trying to figure out when and where to expect it, but I can’t find enough consistency to predict when it will arise. Do you have any ideas?

Me, I have some relatively uninformed ideas. Anyone else out there know better? Please comment!

That’s howl I talk

Happy new year, phonoloblog readers.

Over the past three nights, Karen and I watched the three-part PBS Frontline film Country Boys by David Sutherland (some of which I also commented on here yesterday). There’s lots of good stuff to say about the film; the best I can do is to recommend that you just watch it.

What I want to briefly note here is an example of intrusive [l] from the film’s theme song, Country Boy (written and performed by Ray Riddle, the father of the girlfriend — now wife — of one of the boys featured in the film). Continue reading

Orange you glad I didn't say the C-word?

Apparently, one currently popular way in the mainstream media to get around using a word that is taboo in some way or other is to say/write the X-word, where X is the first letter of the taboo word. Some examples are incredibly well-known; nobody doubts what the F-word refers to, for example. (One of Lindsay Lohan‘s twin characters in the 1998 remake of The Parent Trap uses “the F-word” to refer to her father, but the joke is that her mother naturally misunderstands what she means at first. And yes, I watch sappy Disney movies.)

(According to the NYT article linked above, “every letter of the alphabet now seems up for grabs to euphemize something unspeakable. Examples of all 26 can be found in the conventional press from the last 12 months.” Wish they had supplied the examples; for example, I’d be really curious to know what the X-word would stand for.)

There’s usually little doubt about what the C-word means — I suppose it could be one of two words, but it’s usually the one and not the other. The one’s simply more taboo than the other, possibly because it’s more often used as a direct insult to a person. (The other is hardly ever used this way; it seems to only work in that capacity when suffixed with -sucker.)

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Language use on NPR

In his comment on my recent post on angst, Adam Ussishkin notes this recent piece by NPR ombudsman Jeffrey Dvorkin on language use on NPR, some of which happens to relate to my two posts last month on foreign pronunciation. Ben Zimmer writes to point to this response to some of what Dvorkin writes in the piece, which Ben found via languagehat. Here’s my favorite quote from the response:

Should we say “Pah-REE” instead of Paris? The former is linguistically correct, but that sounds très pretentious to American ears.
Uh, no. As Language Hat rather patiently points out, those pronuciations are French and English, not right and wrong.

Don’t know if there was meant to be a link to something that languagehat wrote, but a quick search for “french” reveals this recent post, among others.

New phonology books

A couple new phonology book announcements were made over Linguist List today. I noted one here; the other is Hargus & Rice‘s Athabaskan Prosody. The summary blurb:

This collection of articles on stress and tone in various Athabaskan languages will interest theoretical linguists and historically oriented linguists alike. The volume brings to light new data on the phonetics and/or phonology of prosody (stress, tone, intonation) in various Athabaskan languages, Chiricahua Apache, Dene Soun’liné, Jicarilla Apache, Sekani, Slave, Tahltan, Tanacross, Western Apache, and Witsuwit’en. As well, some contributions describe how prosody is to be reconstructed for Proto-Athabaskan, and how it evolved in some of the daughter languages.

Would you like to share a final vowel?

There was an interesting post yesterday over at Language Log (by newest Language Logger Ben Zimmer) about the “perilous portmanteau” that people have been using as a nickname for Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel Alito: Scalito, a blend of (Supreme Court Justice Antonin) Scalia and Alito. There has been a flurry of discussion about this blend in the news and on several blogs, much of it linked from Ben’s post. Here I’d just like to focus on the third update to Ben’s post, part of which reads (emphasis added):

Matthew Continetti of the Weekly Standard also takes offense at Scalito: “The nickname is misleading. The two men may share a vowel at the end of their last name. But, needless to say, they’re different people.”

At first, I’m thinking: this is so off the mark! Scalia and Alito share the whole VCV sequence ali, which is towards the end of Scalia and at the beginning of Alito. [Added later: another, perhaps better way to put it is that the first two syllables of both names includes the ali sequence, which is rhythmically identical in both cases.] That’s what makes the blend work (as a blend, putting aside how you might feel about its use). I had to read more of Continetti’s article in order to find out what he really meant.

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The Zomb

At a Halloween party Friday night, a friend of mine was dressed in jeans, white t-shirt, and black leather jacket. He would occasionally pull out a comb and somewhat dramatically comb his hair, then give two thumbs up and say “eeeeeeeeeyyyyy” — really slowly. His face was painted to look ashen, with dark circles around his eyes. He was Arthur Zombarelli, or the zombified version of Arthur Fonzarelli of Happy Days fame, better known as Fonzie or The Fonz.

So, by analogy with Fonzarelli → Fonzie → The Fonz, my friend explained that he was Zombarelli → Zombie → The Zomb — the last of these, of course, pronounced [za:m], though when I asked my friend or anyone else at the party to repeat that, they insisted it was [za:mb], with the final oral stop. When I pointed out how odd that was — going so far as to trot out the tired old bomb ~ bombard pseudo-paradigm — everyone would insist that the point is that it’s [fa:nz], not [fa:n], so it’s [za:mb], not [za:m]. Can’t argue with that (ana)logic.

MJ and OT

I had lunch with some non-linguists today, and the conversation turned to calling people by their initials. Some interesting intuitions show up which appear to be linguistic in nature, though somewhat gradient. Here’s the deal: we know we can assign initials-based referring expressions using the first letters of the referent’s first and middle or first and last name. But there appears to be some limits on what constitutes an allowable set of initials. The example at lunch was, MJ is an allowable form, but MN and ML are not. I have some ideas about why, but it’s not so simple.

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Accent change

A recent UCSD linguistics graduate wrote to me the other day with this request.

I wondered if you, or an appropriate colleague, might be able to provide a few brief comments about accent changes with short-term versus long-term exposure. I am specifically interested in the “how” and “why” elements. How do you expect accents to change with varying exposure and why do these changes occur? How do you expect speakers to react to changes in their own speech? Do they make changes to adjust back to original accent? Are they unaware of the changes until someone points them out?

(More specifically, this person’s interest is in “accent changes that Australians experience when visiting or living in the United States.”)

I have some semi-educated guesses about this based on personal experience and my general knowledge of linguistics, but that’s about it. Anyone else know more on this topic? Please comment!

Monosegmental affricate, bisegmental cluster?

In revising a paper on complex onset phonotactics involving laterals, a question has come up about the status of /tl/ in Mexican Spanish loanword adaptations from Nahuatl. First, a description from Hualde (1999:171-172):

A word such as atlas ‘atlas’ is pronounced [ˈa.tlas] in almost all of Latin America and in areas of western Spain, while in central and eastern Spain it is pronounced [ˈat.las] ~ [ˈað.las]. … In Mexican Spanish the /tl/ cluster appears even in word-initial position, in toponyms and borrowings from Nahuatl such as Tlaxcala (place name), tlapalería ‘hardware store’, etc.

Lope Blanch (1972:97-98) ascribes this characteristic of Mexican Spanish to the influence of Nahuatl, which has a voiceless dentoalveolar lateral affricate /tɬ/. Presumably, when Spanish speakers were confronted with this phoneme in Nahuatl loanwords and Aztec toponyms, they interpreted it as a bisegmental sequence of coronal /t/ followed by the lateral liquid /l/, both of which exist independently in Spanish. The other possibility is that what is typically transcribed as [tl] is still, in fact, a monosegmental affricate, which might explain why the heterosyllabic parse of medial [t.l] is out (at least for Nahuatl-Spanish bilinguals?).

So, I’m just curious as to what kind of arguments (empirical, theory-internal, or otherwise) would be necessary to motivate the mono- versus bisegmental status of Mexican Spanish /tl/…

References cited

Hualde, José Ignacio. 1999. La silabificación en español. Fonología generativa contemporánea de la lengua española, ed. by R. Núñez Cedeño and A. Morales-Front, 177-188. Washington: Georgetown University Press.

Lope Blanch, Juan M. 1972. Estudios sobre el español de México. Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México.

Show me the magic

A couple months ago on her blog Ilani Ilani, Harvard linguistics student Bridget Samuels quoted the following from “Andrea Calabrese’s new manuscript, Markedness & Economy in a Derivational Model of Phonology, which you can download here.” (That’s a link to an index of “pubblications [sic] and work in progress” at the “Interdipartimental [sic] Center of Cognitive Studies on Language” at the Università di Siena; here‘s the direct link to the zipped .pdf file of Calabrese’s book manuscript.)

[A]n idiosyncratic and contradictory core, the product of history and its inescapable whims, will always remain. Linguists who deny this core and attempt to provide a synchronic explanation to all aspects of the phonology of a language– a common attitude, especially in OT– behave a little bit like individuals who, when faced with the painful contradictions of reality, retreat into magical thinking and try to give sense, through mysterious correspondences, to what is otherwise a broken, shattered and meaningless existence.

Let me start out by saying that, after downloading this manuscript and taking a look at some of what it covers, I have every reason to be interested in reading it. I’ve always liked Calabrese’s work; his dissertation influenced some of my thinking as I wrote my own dissertation. But there’s something truly shameful in tossing off a claim like the one quoted above.

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Still more distributional arguments

I’m teaching a grad seminar on assimilation this quarter, and this week we discussed Jaye Padgett‘s “Unabridged feature classes in phonology” (abridged published version appeared in Language, 2002; the paper dates back to these). Something came up in the discussion that I’ve been thinking about for a while, related to my two posts from a while back about distributional arguments in phonology.

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African language web resources

Another one via Linguist List: Web resources for African languages (from “site editor” Jouni F. Maho). From the main page:

The main objective of this site is to provide easy access to online materials on African languages, with particular emphasis on materials that contain structural data. […] The site contains links to other sites hosting free accessible materials, either as online searchable databases or as downloadable files of various formats (PDFs, PS-files, Word-documents, etc.). Links to commercial enterprises won’t be added, as a rule.

A nice looking site, though (of course) in need of many more contributions.

Good practices in developing linguistic corpora

Of possible interest to readers of this blog: Developing Linguistic Corpora: a Guide to Good Practice (via Linguist List).

From the preface, by editor Martin Wynne:

In this volume, a selection of leading experts in various key areas of corpus construction offer advice in a readable and largely non-technical style to help the reader to ensure that their corpus is well designed and fit for the intended purpose. […] This Guide is an attempt to draw together the experience of corpus builders into a single source, as a starting point for obtaining advice and guidance on good practice in this field. […] The modest aim of this Guide is to take readers through the basic first steps involved in creating a corpus of language data in electronic form for the purpose of linguistic research.

More foreign pronunciation

The hourly news summaries on NPR this morning were being delivered by Lakshmi Singh, and the top story was the earthquake in Kashmir. I wasn’t able to record a clip in time, but it was interesting to hear Singh’s pronunciation of Pakistan as [ˈpakistan] as opposed to the more usual American pronunciation [ˈpækɪstæn], especially while Kashmir, India, and Afghanistan all seemed to be pronounced with her usual native American English accent (the last of these as [əfˈgænɪstæn]). Given Singh’s name, one might expect some connection to this part of the world, though her NPR bio says that “Singh’s mother is Puerto Rican, her father is from Trinidad”, and implies that she identifies pretty strongly with the Hispanic side of her heritage, having majored in “broadcast journalism and Latin American studies” and being “a regular contributor to NPR’s Latino USA” (a show on which you can pretty reliably count on hearing Spanish-accent pronunciations of Hispanic place names even by native English speakers).

Approaching abstract deadlines

Here’s a list of some approaching conferences/workshops of interest to phonologists and other linguists, organized by abstract deadline:

* Approaches to Phonological Opacity and Prosodic Phrasing workshops at GLOW
     — Barcelona, April 5 (workshops) / April 6-8 (GLOW).
     — Abstracts due Tuesday, November 1, 2005

* The 32nd Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society
     — Berkeley, February 10-12, 2006.
     — Abstracts due Friday, November 4, 2005

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Although this link has been sitting in the “Archives, etc.” link list in the phonoloblog sidebar for some time now, it’s worth mentioning more explicitly. LingBuzz is “an article archive and a community space for Generative Linguistics. You are highly encouraged to upload your articles – old and new, published or not.”

LingBuzz was conceived/coded and is maintained by Michal Starke. Michal recently implemented a feature that points to papers on other linguistics archives, such as the Rutgers Optimality Archive and

Course material update: phonolinks

Back in May, I posted a request for folks to share their phonology course materials. I received a handful of direct responses, all of them helpful and positive. But I quickly realized it would be too much work for just one person, especially if that person was going to be me.

Now that I’m teaching undergraduate phonetics again, I’m thinking it would also be very useful to have a similar compilation of online phonetics resources. Over the years I’ve found, sometimes by accident and sometimes from specific web searches, that several folks have already done things like this. Some of the examples are very thorough and excellent. I still can’t get past the fact, though, that very little of what I see builds on the work of others — everyone has their own webpage with their own links that they each have to maintain.

So what I’m now thinking is that there should be a single place for all these resources (links and material), a categorized and searchable site that all of us can contribute to and keep more-or-less updated. I’ve set up the following site for just this purpose: phonolinks. A few example entries are already up and I’ll continue to add more every so often. Read the about page, and if you’d like to participate, let me know.