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Conference Information

Full Title: Vowel Reduction and its Phonological Consequences

Location: Zurich, Switzerland
Start Date: 10-Sep-2017 - 13-Sep-2017
Contact: Cormac Anderson
Meeting Email: click here to access email
Meeting Description: The workshop will investigate the processes of vowel reduction and loss and their phonological and morphonological consequences in the cross-linguistic and general theoretical perspective.

Vowel reduction and loss is a cross-linguistically frequent phenomenon, but its full typological properties have yet to be discovered. In many language descriptions, this phenomenon is simply stated as a fact, with little further interrogation of its causes, mechanisms or consequences. However, ongoing reduction can be a challenge for the synchronic phonological description of a language, especially a non-standardized one without a literary tradition. For some major language groups (Slavic, Romance, Germanic, Greek, Finno-Ugric) there exists a long tradition of research on reduced vowels, where most often their phonotactic properties, relation to stress and full vowels, and acoustic features are studied.

Works taking a cross-linguistic and general theoretical approach to vowel reduction and loss are however scarce. There are few comparative phonetic studies in this field, and phonological surveys (Crosswhite 2001, Barnes 2006) mostly tackle qualitative, but not quantitative reduction. Vowel reduction is typically defined as a positional neutralization of vowel contrast. However, it does not necessarily result in the neutralization, e.g. a contrast of long and short vowels can be transformed into a contrast of reduced and short vowels. Not yet enough is known about the exact changes in structure of a phonetic pool of variation during ongoing reduction, as well as the correlation between production and perception/categorization of reduced vowels.

Much work remains to be done on the typology of the consequences for phonology and morphology of vowel reduction and loss. What types of vocalic and consonantal systems are likely to emerge in languages which have undergone strong reduction and/or widespread loss of vowels? Under the same phonetic conditions, why do we often observe asymmetries in the outcomes of loss of vowels of different quality (as in Russian or Irish)?

There is also still no consensus about the physiological origins and phonetic mechanisms of vowel reduction. Is formant undershoot always the function of decrease in vowel duration (Lindblom 1963)? Is there a conflict between the needs to reduce prominence and to enhance contrast (Harris 2005)? What is the balance between the needs of speakers and listeners in the course of reduction?


Cormac Anderson (Department of Linguistic and Cultural Evolution, Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, Jena), e-mail:
Natalia Kuznetsova (Institute for Linguistic Research, Russian Academy of Sciences, St. Petersburg), e-mail:
Linguistic Subfield: Phonetics; Phonology; Typology
LL Issue: 27.4763

This is a session of the following meeting:
50th Meeting of the Societas Linguistica Europaea

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