X Counter{bl/f}eeds Y

During all the recent discussion about counterfeeding and counterbleeding relationships, Eric and I had an email exchange over the role of illustrations in elucidating the usage of each. The short story is, I had hoped that I’d found a way to corroborate the definition of X counterfeeds Y given by Koutsoudas et al., which had served as the arbiter for Colin and Eric’s bet. But at the risk of sounding vague, we ended up agreeing that I might not have.

It started with me remembering that this was not the first thread about counter[_]eeding to appear on phonoloblog; the concept also appeared last fall in a post by Eric about the use of pictures in a phonology textbook.

Now I haven’t told anyone this til now, but when I was an undergrad and we covered bleeding and counterbleeding, I “got it” pretty firmly. I attribute this to the amount of attention paid to it by John Jensen,
one of my undergraduate professors, in the courses I took with him. The connection is that it is was Jensen’s recent phonology textbook that Eric noted in that earlier post. In particular, the issue was the horse-and-cart and horse-and-barn paradigm that the book uses as an analogy to clarify feeding and bleeding relationships.

You can look for yourself, but I’ll summarize as follows: in the analogy, placing the cart before the horse is a feeding order, and placing the horse before the cart is a counterfeeding order. In other words, the horse and cart both stand in for rules, and where the cart-rule comes first, feeding can occur. A parallel, but less concrete, analogy is given for bleeding and counterbleeding, using a horse and a stable door. The whole thing is meant to distinguish bleeding and feeding relationships.

However, as I considered it, I began to think it also clarified who’s who in “X counterfeeds Y”. I was understanding it to mean that when the horse-rule comes first, the cart-rule counterfeeds the horse. (In other words, the later rule fails to feed the earlier rule). This is consistent with the definition that Colin had bet on and won with. I emailed Eric to try to explain this – and I wasn’t gloating, either, because I had made the same error – I “get” counterfeeding relationships, but I don’t get X counterfeeds Y.

Eric wrote back and asked, “[when the horse comes first], why doesn’t the horse counterfeed the cart?” Which is a good question. Given that the output of the cart-rule (hay, I guess, or maybe oats) is something the horse-rule can operate upon, it was clear that the two rules were in a potential feeding relationship. But, despite my brief epiphany, when the rule ordering fails to allow feeding to occur, it is not obvious from the illustration who counterfeeds whom. (Which is probably why it uses the phrasing of the “counterfeeding relation” rather than “X counterfeeds Y”. Which is probably why, back when, I got it).

Anyway, I have enabled the comment form for this post, so that you can share whether (a) this helped clarify the issue for you, (b) you already got it and didn’t need this, or (c) you thought you got it but now I’ve ruined it and your week.

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