Author Archives: Geoffrey Nathan

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.

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.

Cleopatterer Again

I think I have a possible answer to Eric’s question, also, although we’d have to do some research on the exact chronology. In Cole Porter’s Kiss Me Kate there’s the great song ‘Brush Up Your Shakespeare’, which has great rhymes. One of them, of course, is:

Just declaim a few lines from Othella
And they’ll think you’re a hell of a fella
If your blonde won’t respond when you flatter ‘er
Tell her what Tony told Cleopatterer

Here the motivation for the extra syllable is clear, but Kiss Me Kate premiered in 1948, so the silly pronunciation may have been floating around. But the film was dated 1946, so maybe not. According to the soundtrack of Till the clouds roll by was the first ever released of a live (as opposed to animated) movie.
Anyway, tiny additional amount of data from a Broadway freak…


Still More on /t/

This is my first official post, so apologies if I get things wrong, either etiquette-wise or technologically…

It would be interesting to see what assorted ‘illiterate’ subjects to with other allophones of /t/. David Stampe told me years ago of children who systematically replaced their parents’ glottal stops with slightly aspirated [t]’s in word such as ‘kitten’, ‘mitten’. This was particularly interesting since the adults never said [mIt@n].
Given his views, of course, what the children were doing was perceiving the intention and pronouncing that, since they didn’t yet control glottal stops. That doesn’t explain why children would systematically revert to the voiceless underlying target in non-alternating contexts however.