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LINGUIST List 23.4569

Thu Nov 01 2012

Diss: Phonology/ Chinese, Mandarin/ English/ Korean: Lu: 'The Role of Alternation in Phonological Relationships'

Editor for this issue: Lili Xia <lxialinguistlist.org>

Date: 31-Oct-2012
From: YU-AN LU <yuanlusbgmail.com>
Subject: The Role of Alternation in Phonological Relationships
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Institution: State University of New York at Stony Brook
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2012

Author: Yu-An Lu

Dissertation Title: The Role of Alternation in Phonological Relationships

Linguistic Field(s): Phonology

Subject Language(s): Chinese, Mandarin (cmn)
                            English (eng)
                            Korean (kor)

Dissertation Director:
Ellen Broselow
Marie Huffman
Jose Elias-Ulloa
Arthur Samuel
Kathleen Currie Hall

Dissertation Abstract:

The concept of phonological relationships has been central in most, if not all,
theories of phonology. The goal of this dissertation is to determine the
contributions of two factors, distribution and alternation, in leading speakers
to group sounds as members of the same category. Using previously
established methods of testing speakers' perception and processing of
sounds—similarity ratings, discrimination on a continuum, and semantic
priming—I investigate the processing of coronal fricatives in three different
languages: (i) English, in which the contrast between s and sh may signal
differences in meaning (as in see vs. she), though the two sounds participate
in limited morphological alternations as in press/pressure; (ii) Korean, in
which s and sh are in complementary distribution and participate in regular
and productive morphological alternations; and (iii) Mandarin, in which s and
sh are in complementary distribution but do not participate in allomorphic
alternations due to Mandarin's lack of affixation and its phonotactic
restrictions. The relationship between s and sh in Mandarin, due to the
conflicting evidence from distribution and alternation, has been a matter of
controversy. The results from the similarity rating experiment showed that
both the Mandarin and English speakers rated s vs. sh as more different than
did Korean speakers, suggesting that the Mandarin speakers, who have
access only to distributional evidence, are less likely to treat s/sh as
members of a single category than the Korean speakers, who are exposed to
evidence from both distribution and morphological alternation. Furthermore,
the judgments from the speakers of all three languages varied in different
vowel contexts, suggesting that the assignment of two sounds as members
of the same or separate categories is not necessarily absolute. These
findings suggest that multiple factors contribute to the formation of phoneme
categories and that phonological relationships are gradient rather than

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