LINGUIST List 13.1957

Mon Jul 22 2002

Diss: Phonetics: Ritchie "Causation in Sound..."

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  1. jimr, Phonetics: Ritchie "Causation in Sound Change..."

Message 1: Phonetics: Ritchie "Causation in Sound Change..."

Date: Fri, 19 Jul 2002 18:22:43 +0000
From: jimr <>
Subject: Phonetics: Ritchie "Causation in Sound Change..."

New Dissertation Abstract

Institution: University of California at Berkeley
Program: Department of German
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2000

Author: James Andrew Ritchie 

Dissertation Title: 
Causation in Sound Change: Perception-based Monophthongization in Old
High German

Linguistic Field: Phonetics, Historical Linguistics

Dissertation Director 1: Irmengard Rauch
Dissertation Director 2: Thomas F. Shannon
Dissertation Director 3: John J. Ohala

Dissertation Abstract: 

Past treatments of the Old High German (OHG) monophthongization of
Germanic *ai and *au mainly before given consonants can be
characterized largely as searches for a single conditioning
articulatory feature. There is currently no agreement in the
literature, however, about what that feature is. Conventional
articulatory definitions offer only an incomplete account of the
potential effect sof the coarticulatory interaction between the
conditioning environments and the original diphthongs. Although the
specific details of the OHG speech sounds remain uncertain, we can use
laboratory phonetics and our knowledge of modern speech sounds to
create a plausible model of the OHG monophthongization.

This dissertation argues that the OHG monophthongization was a
perception-based sound change. AN experiment was conducted to test the
perceptual identification of [aI] and [aU] under conditions of
increased speaking rate. Conditions of increased speaking rate were
artificially created by truncating 40% of the onset from [aI] and [aU]
before a variety of medial consonants in a set of nonsense
tokens. Seventeen subjects were tested for their perceptions of these
truncated diphthongs. Given the perceptual salience of the spectral
dynamic portions of the diphthong off-glides, the null hypothesis that
there would be no significant rates of error in the correct
identification of the truncated diphthongs was tested and disproved.

Statistically significant rates of errors occurred before medial
pharyngeals and medial dentals. There was no significant rate of error
in diphthong perception before other medial consonants. These former
environments reflect the same environments which condition the OHG
monophthongization. The results of the experiment are particularly
interesting in view of the fact that the spectral dynamic portions of
the signal were left intact, yet not perceived. The perceptual
interactions of the conditioners of the OHG monophthongization with
the Germanic diphthongs *ai and *au appear to have introduced
systematic ambiguities in the speech signal which motivated listener
reanalyses of the diphthongs as monophthongs.
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