LINGUIST List 15.333

Thu Jan 29 2004

Diss: Phonetics/Phonology: Davidson: 'The Atoms...'

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  1. lisa.davidson, The Atoms of Phonological Representation

Message 1: The Atoms of Phonological Representation

Date: Wed, 28 Jan 2004 14:20:40 -0500 (EST)
From: lisa.davidson <>
Subject: The Atoms of Phonological Representation

Institution: Johns Hopkins University
Program: Department of Cognitive Science
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2003

Author: Lisa Davidson

Dissertation Title: The Atoms of Phonological Representation:
Gestures, Coordination, and Perceptual Features in Consonant Cluster

Linguistic Field: Phonetics, Phonology

Dissertation Director 1: Paul Smolensky

Dissertation Abstract:

The central goal of this dissertation is to investigate the roles and
interaction of articulatory, perceptual, and temporal elements in the
phonological component of the grammar. This inquiry extends both to
the input representations that are submitted to a phonological
grammar, and to the constraints in the grammar. In order to adequately
account for both production data and data from language typology, two
elements must be integrated into the phonological component alongside
articulatory gestures: perceptual features, which play an important
role in determining phonotactic patterns, and gestural coordination,
which establishes whether and how adjacent gestures are related to one

This dissertation reports three experiments on the production of
word-initial consonant clusters; such clusters are an appropriate
environment for investigating how perception, articulation, and
coordination interact in the phonology. The first experiment is an
acoustic study of the production by native English speakers of
Czech-possible consonant clusters (e.g. fkale, zbano, vnodi). Results
show that speakers are more accurate on some English-illegal
phonotactic sequences than others. Speakers most often repair illegal
target clusters by inserting a schwa between the two consonants in the
cluster. The nature of this schwa is addressed in the second
experiment. A comparison of speakers producing both phonotactically
legal and illegal word-initial clusters using ultrasound imaging shows
that speakers' repairs of the illegal sequence are more consistent
with the alteration of gestural coordination than with phonological
vowel epenthesis. The third experiment addresses fast speech schwa
deletion in English. Results from this experiment suggest that surface
changes caused by speech rate may be implemented in the phonology
through a modification of the coordination relationship between

The formal analysis of this data draws on insights from Articulatory
Phonology (Browman and Goldstein 1986, et seq.) and the
Licensing-by-Cue framework (Steriade 1997) to determine how
articulatory, perceptual and temporal factors affect consonant cluster
production. These factors are incorporated into a constraint-based
phonological framework that not only accounts for the coordination
between sequential gestures (COORDINATION constraints, based on Gafos
2002), but also determines which gestures are subject to such
coordination (ASSOCIATION constraints) and whether the coordinated
gestures form a phonotactically legal sequence (*OVERLAP
constraints). Together, these constraints form Gestural Association
Theory. The framework is extended to incorporate floating constraints
to account for the variation observed in the experimental results.
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