LINGUIST List 10.460

Mon Mar 29 1999

Calls: Phonology, Language Theory/MLA

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>

As a matter of policy, LINGUIST discourages the use of abbreviations or acronyms in conference announcements unless they are explained in the text.


  1. Tobias Scheer, Round Table in Phonology
  2. lrw1, Language Theory/MLA

Message 1: Round Table in Phonology

Date: Sun, 28 Mar 1999 23:15:43 +0200
From: Tobias Scheer <>
Subject: Round Table in Phonology

 Round Table in Phonology

 The Strong Position
 Lenition and Fortition

 Nice/ France

 June 24-25

 Call for papers
 Deadline for submission of a one-page abstract: 15 May 1999

The French National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) has recently
created a research group (GDR) in Phonology (see at The first public activity of the "GDR
Phonologie" will be the organisation of a Round Table on June 24-25.

June 24: conferences on any topic related to Phonology

June 25: conferences concerning the Strong Position (see below)

We invite submissions for 30 min. presentations plus 10 min. discussion for
both the general and thematic day.
Please send a one-page abstract to

The Round Table will take place in walking distance of the Old Harbour in
an ancient building along the seaside. Housing and lunch (at very
reasonable prices) is taken care of on-site (first come, first serve if
beds are short). Please indicate your dates of arrival and departure,
whether you want to sleep on-site and the comfort requested for
accommodation (see on the web page).
All relevant practical information (geography, accomodation, prices,...) is
available at

(page under construction).

the organisers

Joaquim Brandao de Carvalho
Tobias Scheer
Philippe Sgral

- -------------------------------

 Thematic day

 June 25

 The Strong Position
 Lenition and Fortition

- why is it that consonants in word-initial position and those occurring after
 other consonants behave alike?
- what do you have, what has your theory to say about this phenomenon?
- which is the empirical basis of it? Do you know of illustration?

The same phonological reality may be (and traditionally is) addressed from
the other side of the medal: the weak position(s). Why is it that lenition
occurs in a subset of positions only, to the exclusion of others?
Whatever view is preferred, there are 5 and only 5 positions in the string
that a consonant may come to stand in (branching Onsets let aside):

{C,#}__ V__V __{C,#}

Two of them define a phonological object that is known as the Coda. The
corresponding disjunctive context "word-finally or before a heterosyllabic
consonant" has been in the spotlight of post-SPE discussion. It was at the
origin of the reintroduction of syllable structure into the theory, and
thus has contributed to the abandon of its linear character.

Given the focus on the Coda, it is surprising that no attention was payed
to the mirror disjunctive context, i.e. {C,#}__ "word-initially and after a
heterosyllabic consonant". This context, however, is also recurrent in
processes found in many genetically unrelated languages. Hence, this
disjunctive context, which is called the Strong Position in the Romance
literature, challenges the theory in exactly the way the Coda did.

Typical illustration of the Strong Position {C,#}__ may be given by the
High German (or 2nd) Consonant Shift. In German, Common Germanic voiceless
plosives [p,t,k] occur as affricates in {C,#}__, but surface as fricatives
in Codas and intervocalically. English, which has preserved voiceless
Common Germanic plosives, witnesses the ancient situation (<z>=[ts],
<ch>=[/X] according to the preceding vowel, <kX>=velar affricate, which
has been restored to [k] in Standard Modern German, but is preserved in
High Alemannic (Switzerland))

 #__ Coda__ Coda V__V
p path Pfad carp Karpfen sheep Schaf pope Pfaffe
t ten zehn salt Salz that das hate hassen
k corn kXorn thank dankXe streak Strich make machen

Romance languages also offer rich illustration of the strength of
consonants in {C,#}__. In Gallo-Romance for instance, Latin obstruents
undergo various lenition processes in Codas and intervocalically, while
they appear undamaged in initial and post-Coda position.

Syllabic theory as currently understood is challenged by the existence of
the Strong Position because it is unable to properly discriminate
consonants in {C,#}__. Indeed, out of the 5 possible positions for a
consonant to occur in, 3 are said to illustrate Onsets (#__, C__, V__V),
and 2 Codas (__C, __#). However, only two of the three positions dominated
by Onsets, to the explicit exclusion of the third, participate in the
Strong Position.
As was the case when faced with the Coda, the challenge for phonological
theory is to be able to refer to the Strong Position as a unique object
that is different from any other.

Moreover, the structural description of the Strong Position {C,#}__ is the
exact mirror image of the one characterising the Coda __{C,#}. And this
reverse description also corresponds to opposite effects: the Coda is
reputed to be "weak", while the Strong Position precisely influences on
consonants that it hosts in a way that they are "strong", i.e. resistant to
alteration (of diachronic as well as of synchronic nature). This situation
is everything but accidental, and hence sharpens the theoretical challenge.

In short, the discussion we would like to initiate is about

the processes that segments undergo because of their particular position in
the string.

Philippe Sgral and Tobias Scheer have made proposals regarding the
capture of the Strong Position as a natural class in a manuscript, "The
Coda Mirror". Namely, this paper reviews a number of phenomena that
illustrate the Strong Position. It circulates within the GDR, and may be
used in the preparation of the thematic day. The Coda Mirror can be
downloaded from the web page, and is sent by way of snail mail upon request.

We hope that the Round Table stimulates both the empirical and theoretical
debate, confronting various data and modelisations.

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Message 2: Language Theory/MLA

Date: Sun, 28 Mar 1999 19:22:12 -0500 (EST)
From: lrw1 <>
Subject: Language Theory/MLA

- ---------------- Call for papers for an open session of the Language
Theory Division of the Modern Language Association at the December
1999 annual meeting. One page abstracts should be sent by April 7 to:

Professor Linda R. Waugh 
327 E. Islay St.
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
(805) 682-0522

(Professor of Linguistics, Romance Studies, and Comparative Literature, 
Cornell University; Visiting Scholar [1998-99], Department of Linguistics, 
University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106)

Anyone who gives a paper in a session at the MLA should be a member of 
the MLA or should request a waiver of the membership requirement (waivers 
are typically granted for foreign scholars and persons outside the 
disciplines of languages and literatures). Please contact me about 
possible waivers.

Linda Waugh
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