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.

In recent years there have been a number of proposals for taking a functional approach to defining what ”phonology” means. There have been moves toward ”phonetically grounding” phonological features, processes and distributional restrictions. There have been attempts to explain much of phonology as emerging from articulation, acoustics, aerodynamics, perception and/or diachrony. There have also been moves toward denying the psychological reality of phonology completely – suggesting that sound patterns are nothing more than a combination of phonetics and the lexicon. At the same time, there has also been a tendency to disregard many of the advances in feature theory that occurred during the 1970s and 1980s, with many researchers adapting convenient, usually fully-specified bundles of binary SPE-like features that are supposed to be innately connected to vocal tract anatomy and/or acoustics.

The central goal of this workshop is to examine the role of phonological patterns in addressing questions pertaining to phonological feature theory. In particular, we would like to ask the question: What are phonological features from a synchronic, phonological perspective? In focusing on synchrony, we will concentrate on productive patterns/alternations and not historical changes or marginal phenomena that might be lexically fossilized. In focusing on phonology, we hope to exclude those phenomena that are straightforwardly explained via phonetic principles (e.g. continuous, articulator-dependent, aerodynamics-dependent, acoustics-/perception-dependent). In other words, we will look at evidence that phonological features exist independent of diachrony and phonetics.

This two-day workshop (28-29 September) will bring together researchers interested in the phonological bases of phonological features.

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