LINGUIST List 11.658

Wed Mar 22 2000

Disc: Underlying Schwa?

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <karenlinguistlist.org>


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  1. Theo Vennemann, Re: 11.654, Disc: Underlying Schwa?
  2. Jorge Guitart, Re: 11.654, Disc: Underlying Schwa?

Message 1: Re: 11.654, Disc: Underlying Schwa?

Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2000 20:21:05 +0100
From: Theo Vennemann <Vennemanngermanistik.uni-muenchen.de>
Subject: Re: 11.654, Disc: Underlying Schwa?

Geoffrey S. Nathan writes:

>An additional source for evidence of morphological relatedness is errors in
>morphology homework problems. I say this because I just graded an
>elementary exercise in derivational morphology from _Language Files_. At
>least one student, a native speaker, did not recognize the following
>morphological relatednesses:
>
>explosion (didn't think of it as made up of 'explode+ion')
>active (didn't see 'act' in it)
>responsibility (didn't see 'responsible')
>
>One of the problems with clever underlying forms based on relatedness
>between words is that there is great individual variation among native
>speakers as to whether there IS a common form-meaning pairing. In
>Mohanan's old book on lexical phonology, for example, he uses the pair
>'native': 'nation' as evidence for a level one rule of palatalization. But
>how many would argue for a synchronic semantic connection between those
>two? Etymological, sure, and obviously, orthographic. But the core
>meanings of 'native' (something like 'aboriginal') and 'nation' (political
>entity) are sufficiently distant to argue against a common lexical entry,
>which is what 'underlying form' is all about.

I think Geoff Nathan has hit the nail right on its head. Carrying the
argument to its logical conclusion, one arrives at the position that all
words have their own, independent representations in the lexicon. There are
no underlying representations but only surface representations, including
stress and reduced syllables, and for some speakers apparently even several
distinct reduced vowels. (For German, too, many linguists recognize two
reduced vowel, plain and r-colored.)
 This incidentally is the position that Joan Bybee Hooper and I
arrived at more than a quarter of a century ago when we formulated a
single-level theory of phonological representations which some people may
remember by the name of NGP (Natural Generative Phonology), a theory in
which all rules are constraints or, as Joan Bybee Hooper then said, "rules
have to be true on the surface". It is quite gratifying to see other
linguists arriving there.
 For those who were not around at the time and are interested in the
history of theorizing on constraints (called rules then) and
representations, the following publications may still be fun reading:
 T.V., "Words and syllables in natural generative grammar", in
Anthony Bruck et al., eds., Papers from the Parasession on Natural
Phonology, Chicago; Chicago Linguistic Society, 1974, 346-374.
 Joan Bybee Hooper, An introduction to Natural Generative Phonology,
New York: Academic Press, 1976.

Theo Vennemann, 22 March 2000
Vennemanngermanistik.uni-muenchen.de
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Message 2: Re: 11.654, Disc: Underlying Schwa?

Date: Wed, 22 Mar 2000 16:25:46 -0500 (EST)
From: Jorge Guitart <guitartacsu.buffalo.edu>
Subject: Re: 11.654, Disc: Underlying Schwa?

Geoffrey Nathan wrote
> 
> An additional source for evidence of morphological relatedness is errors in
> morphology homework problems. I say this because I just graded an
> elementary exercise in derivational morphology from _Language Files_. At
> least one student, a native speaker, did not recognize the following
> morphological relatednesses:
> 
> explosion (didn't think of it as made up of 'explode+ion')
> active (didn't see 'act' in it)
> responsibility (didn't see 'responsible')
> 
> One of the problems with clever underlying forms based on relatedness
> between words is that there is great individual variation among native
> speakers as to whether there IS a common form-meaning pairing. In
> Mohanan's old book on lexical phonology, for example, he uses the pair
> 'native': 'nation' as evidence for a level one rule of palatalization. But
> how many would argue for a synchronic semantic connection between those
> two? Etymological, sure, and obviously, orthographic. But the core
> meanings of 'native' (something like 'aboriginal') and 'nation' (political
> entity) are sufficiently distant to argue against a common lexical entry,
> which is what 'underlying form' is all about.

Is it possible to argue for a common lexical entry in the following
('non-clever') cases?

active- action
additive-addition
addictive-addiction
consumptive-consumption
indicative-indication

and also 

permisive permission
submisive submission
persuasive persuasion
etc.

All the adjectives have in common that the last sound of the stem is an
anterior coronal obstruent
All the nouns have in common that the last sound of the stem is a
non-anterior coronal obstruent.
If looks as if the nominal suffix moves the articulation one
point back. 

But maybe this 'movement' is illusory, a fantasy. In reality there is a
static specification. There is no 'anterior becomes non anterior but
rather 'it is anterior before iv and nonanterior before ion'. But WHAT is
anterior before iv and non-anterior before ion? Answer: the last segment
of the stem. The two members of each pair have that in common as well as
the rest of the stem. And so it must be specified someplace in your head
that the last segment of the stem is a coronal obstruent. The feature
anterior is specified by the static specification. On each pair, the
members have something in common that is phonological. 

Why not think that this is what happens in native and nation, even though
the speaker may not see the semantic relation?

Jorge Guitart
SUNY Buffalo

 
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