Author Archives: Travis Bradley

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].

"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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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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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.

Examples of Judeo-Spanish innovations in an online discussion group

This is something I’ve been meaning to post for a while now, dealing partially with online data collection, partially with Judeo-Spanish phonology. Eric’s recent post mentions a talk by Bert Vaux on the pros and cons of using Google for linguistic research (see May 6, 2005, of the colloquium schedule here, or alternatively, here), which got me thinking about the use of linguistic data from online sources. On issues related to Google searching, see this article from The Economist, as well as several posts on the Language Log, e.g., by Mark Liberman, Geoffrey Pullum, and Philip Resnik. Having done some reading on phonological variation in Judeo-Spanish, I began to wonder whether the Internet might offer some authentic examples of a particular series of phonological innovations involving /we/ diphthongs.
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Re: More vowel fragments

To follow up on the posts about vowel fragments in the Iraqi woman’s speech…

It seems to me that her pronunciation of “street” is a nice illustration (all in one word!) of the difference between vowel epenthesis and vowel intrusion, a distinction that Nancy Hall argues for at length in her dissertation. My understanding of her work is that while the former arises for reasons having to do with syllable structure, the latter is motivated as a way to ensure perceptibility/recoverability of consonant clusters. Vowel intrusion is invisible to the phonology inasmuch as it fails to interact with processes that operate on higher-level prosodic structure.

Two examples of this invisibility come from Spanish. Continue reading

More vowel fragments

On listening to this woman’s two pronunciations of “street” and inspecting the waveforms and spectrograms, it seems that the two vocoids are plainly different. The one between the [s] and the [t] is much longer and has a reasonably clear quality, close to barred i, i.e. backer than cap I, as one of the previous posters noted. The one between the [t] and the tap [r] is much briefer, indistinct in quality and indeed hard even to detect by ear. These differences suggest that the first is actually intended, and not a product of minimal overlap between the [s] and [t], while the second is a mere byproduct of the lack of overlap between the [t] and the tap.

Re: More vowel fragments

I knew this site would suck me in sooner or later. So here goes onehanded typing with a baby in the other hand..this won’t be a long post.

Lisa is right that Iraqi speakers have prothesis with initial sC clusters, but according to Broselow’s 1983 article, sCC clusters are adapted as siCC, so she gives the example [sitrit] for ‘street’. She relates this to the general rule of three-consonant cluster epenthesis in Iraqi of O –> i / C _ CC. Under this scenario, the first vowel is truly epenthetic, present for syllabification reasons, but the second (which Broselow does not transcribe in her examples) must be one of those transitional vocoids. Hence the length difference?

Broselow, Ellen (1983). Nonobvious transfer: on predicting epenthesis errors. In S. Gass & L. Selinker (eds.) Language Transfer in Language Learning, 269-280. Rawley, MA: Newbury House.

Re: Spanish taps at the DNC

Eric, thanks for setting up the phonoloblog! It’s a great way to make data available or make use of data that’s already available on the web.

To follow up on your posting about Bill Richardson’s pronunciation of the word patriota in his recent speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convetion, I went to NPR’s website and found the streaming audio broadcast. (It’s listed under the first hour on their schedule for Wed. July 28, but it’s actually part of the link to the second hour, thanks to Al Sharpton, I guess!) I’ve isolated the paragraph that he delivered in Spanish, as well as the specific phrase that contains the word of interest and, for purposes of comparison, the word crece:

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