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LINGUIST List 20.4044

Thu Nov 26 2009

Diss: Phonology: Durvasula: 'Understanding Nasality'

Editor for this issue: Di Wdzenczny <dilinguistlist.org>

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        1.    Karthik Durvasula, Understanding Nasality

Message 1: Understanding Nasality
Date: 26-Nov-2009
From: Karthik Durvasula <durvasulmsu.edu>
Subject: Understanding Nasality
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Institution: University of Delaware
Program: Natural Language Processing Lab
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2009

Author: Karthik Durvasula

Dissertation Title: Understanding Nasality

Linguistic Field(s): Phonology

Dissertation Director:
Jeff N Heinz
William J Idsardi
Peter Cole
Uri Tadmor

Dissertation Abstract:

The central aim of this dissertation is to further our understanding of the
phonological feature underlying nasality, and thereby improve our
understanding of phonological representations and the phonology-phonetics
interface, in general. Specifically, I show that given appropriate
abstraction and appropriate phonology-phonetics mapping principles, we can
most insightfully account for both categorical featural behaviour and
variable feature manifestations of nasal segments.

The bulk of the dissertation is devoted to a careful study of segments that
have been lumped together under the cover term 'prenasalised stops' (or
partially-nasal stops (PNS), in this dissertation). I show that, contrary
to the standard view in the phonological literature, there are at least two
distinct types of PNS: 1) Nasal-based partially-nasal stops (N-PNS), and 2)
Voice-based partially-nasal stops (V-PNS). N-PNS are featurally identical
to simple nasal stops that surface as PNS, and are found in languages with
no separate nasal series; V-PNS are segments featurally identical to
fully-voiced stops that surface as PNS. I argue that their behaviours are
best accounted for by re-conceptualising the phonological feature [nasal],
as the dimension Soft Palate (SP), which is sensitive to a set of
(universal) phonology-phonetics mapping principles. Crucially, the
gestural/phonetic manifestation of the discrete representation 'SP' is
shown to be sensitive to the nature of laryngeal contrast in the specific
syllable position.

I further argue that 'post-stopped nasal' segments, which have previously
been grouped with PNS, do not constitute a genuine variety of PNS. From
their phonological and phonetic properties, it is clear that they are
neither N-PNS, nor V-PNS. In fact, I show that all their phonetic and
phonological properties are accounted for by reclassifying them as
obstruent nasals. However, the existence of obstruent nasals creates a
problem for all recent accounts of nasal harmony, as obstruent opacity in
nasal harmony is usually accounted for through the claim that obstruent
nasals are phonetically impossible. I show that the phonological
representation of nasality and feature-gesture mapping principles developed
for PNS in this dissertation, along with other general principles discussed
in the phonological literature can be used to give a straight-forward
analysis for the problematic data.

The dissertation also shows that the phonological feature representing
nasality must have an articulatory definition. Specifically, I show that
aspirate segments have acoustic effects (perceived as nasalization) nearly
identical to nasal segments on adjacent segments. Despite this phonetic
precursor, aspirate segments, unlike nasal segments, never trigger nasal
harmony processes. I use this bias in nasal harmony processes to compare
different distinctive feature theories, and conclude that unconstrained
emergentist approaches, and auditory feature theories have serious problems
in accounting for the data, while distinctive feature theories that
necessitate an articulatory definition like articulatory feature theories,
translational feature theories, and articulatorily-bootstrapped emergentist
feature theories can insightfully account for the data.

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