LINGUIST List 15.430

Mon Feb 2 2004

Sum: Phonological Complexity

Editor for this issue: Steve Moran <>


  1. Doug Whalen, Summary: Phonological complexity

Message 1: Summary: Phonological complexity

Date: Sat, 31 Jan 2004 11:49:11 -0500
From: Doug Whalen <>
Subject: Summary: Phonological complexity

Some time ago (Linguist 14.1403), I posted a query about quantifying
phonological complexity in a variety of phonological theories. I had
many useful replies, and I thank everyone who responded. Here are the
suggestions that were made:

 Bruce Moren is working on a new version of feature geometry that is

 Shari Wells Jensen offered her dissertation:

 Caroline Smith mentioned Lindblom & Maddieson (1988 Hyman & Li,
ed. volume)

 Lisa Redford mentioned a student of Lindblom's: Willerman, Raquel
(1994). The phonetics of pronouns: articulatory basis of markedness,
PhD thesis, UT-Austin.

 Michael Covington suggested that order of acquisition would provide
some evidence, similar to the Rosenberg & Abbeduto "D-level" scale of
syntactic complexity.

 Phil Harrison suggested Government Phonology (John Harris, Monique
Charette, Johnathan Kaye) migh have some useful insights based on
lenition and the inverse of sonority.

 Mark Donohue suggested some articulatory conditions that might be

 John Goldsmith pointed out one of his relevant papers:
Click on "Probabilistic Models", or check out the program link.

 Geoff Nathan pointed out that departures from the most universal
patterns (5 vowels, consonants at the most common places of
articulation, two voicing categories) might be intrinsically
considered complex, though it is not obvious how to quantify this.

 Phil Harrison mentioned Harris J. 1990 'Segmental Complexity and
Phonological Government' Phonology 7 255-300, a very relevant paper.

 These all deal with various aspects of the question. I still hope
to generate some predictions from other theories, but that process
will be some time in coming.

 Doug Whalen DhW
Doug Whalen (
Haskins Laboratories
270 Crown St.
New Haven, CT 06511
203-865-6163, ext. 234
FAX: 203-865-8963
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue