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LINGUIST List 22.2696

Wed Jun 29 2011

Diss: Lang Acq/Phonology: Gerlach: 'The Acquisition of Consonant ...'

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        1.     Sharon Gerlach , The Acquisition of Consonant Sequences: Harmony, metathesis and deletion patterns in phonological development

Message 1: The Acquisition of Consonant Sequences: Harmony, metathesis and deletion patterns in phonological development
Date: 28-Jun-2011
From: Sharon Gerlach <gerla008umn.edu>
Subject: The Acquisition of Consonant Sequences: Harmony, metathesis and deletion patterns in phonological development
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Institution: University of Minnesota at Twin Cities
Program: Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2010

Author: Sharon R. Gerlach

Dissertation Title: The Acquisition of Consonant Sequences: Harmony, metathesis
and deletion patterns in phonological development

Linguistic Field(s): Language Acquisition
Phonology

Subject Language(s): English (eng)


Dissertation Director(s):

Dissertation Abstract:

This dissertation examines three processes affecting consonants in child speech:
harmony (long-distance assimilation) involving major place features as in 'coat'
[ko?k]; long-distance metathesis as in 'cup' [p?k]; and initial consonant
deletion as in 'fish' [?s]. These processes are unattested in adult phonology,
leading to proposals for child-specific constraints. Initial consonant deletion
in particular is a little-understood phenomenon thought to be idiosyncratic.
However, my survey of initial consonant deletion as reported in eight languages
reveals systematic deletion patterns affecting continuants and sequences of
different consonants. I argue that all of these child-specific processes are
tied to the acquisition of consonant sequences.

In order to understand the role of these processes in phonological development,
I examine consonant acquisition data from a diary study of Grace, an
English-acquiring child. I adopt the Bernhardt and Stemberger (1998) variant of
Optimality Theory for the analysis since their view of default
underspecification, sequences of features, and feature-based approach to
sonority permit a unified analysis of harmony, metathesis and initial consonant
deletion that explains Grace's trajectory of acquisition as well as the
frequency of certain patterns across children.

I show that independently motivated constraints governing feature sequences,
onset sonority preferences, initial velars, and the tendency to anticipate
features within a prosodic domain explain all of these processes, as well as
Grace's onset cluster reduction patterns (e.g. snake [se?k]) and gradual
acquisition of different cluster types. Children must learn to produce consonant
feature sequences within a word before producing sequences within an onset.
Child-specific processes are eliminated as children acquire the speech planning
skills necessary to express the contrasts of a mature language, though the
constraints remain active in adult phonology.

The longitudinal data provide evidence for both constraint demotion and
promotion in learning, as well as distinct roles for two types of faithfulness
constraints. One mandates the preservation of non-default features that are
specified in the underlying representation, while the other evaluates identity
of a correspondent segment to any non-default feature associated with a segment.
This distinction permits the derivation of initial consonant deletion as a
response to positional constraints on features or feature sequences.

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