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LINGUIST List 24.3282

Fri Aug 16 2013

Review: Historical Linguistics; Phonetics; Phonology: Yu (2013)

Editor for this issue: Joseph Salmons <jsalmonslinguistlist.org>

Date: 13-May-2013
From: Evan Bradley < Bradley psu.edu>">Evan Bradley psu.edu>>
Subject: Origins of Sound Change
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Book announced at http://linguistlist.org/issues/24/24-419.html

EDITOR: Alan C.L. Yu
TITLE: Origins of Sound Change
SUBTITLE: Approaches to Phonologization
PUBLISHER: Oxford University Press
YEAR: 2013

REVIEWER: Evan D Bradley, Pennsylvania State University, Brandywine

This book sets out to accomplish the daunting task of providing a
comprehensive, up-to-date view of sound change research, incorporating
insights from theoretical linguistics, psychology, modeling, and other fields.
Part 1 contextualizes phonologization in relation to larger questions of
linguistics, psycholinguistics, and cognitive science. Part 2 examines the
relationship between phonology and phonetics -- acoustic, perceptual, and
articulatory. Part 3 considers the relation between processes of
phonologization and the architecture of phonology, morphology, and the
lexicon. Part 4 explores psychological and social factors governing sound
change within language communities.

Part I: What is Phonologization

1. Enlarging the Scope of Phonologization, Larry Hyman

Hyman begins the volume by providing important historical context to and
reviewing multiple perspectives on the scope of phonologization, and argues
for expanding its definition to include a range of phenomena spanning change
from intrinsic phonetic variation to extrinsic phonological rule. Through case
studies involving tonogenesis and ATR harmony, he argues that contrast is not
an essential component of phonological change, and that allophony and other
processes play important roles. In his view, phonologization can be considered
the formation of phonology from any source, and thus is a part of the larger
concept of ‘grammaticalization’. In fact, he proposes an admittedly
impractical but conceptually useful improvement in terminology to refer to
various processes of language change, such as ‘dephonetic
phonogrammaticalization’, meaning the conversion of phonetic information into
phonological grammar.

2. Certainty and Expectation in Phonologization and Language, Elizabeth Hume
and Frederic Mailhot

Like the opening chapter, Hume and Mailhot broaden and contextualize the
definition of phonologization, this time in terms of information theory,
rather than linguistic theory. This allows consideration of the degree to
which grammar-external factors play a role in predicting the targets and
results of change. The authors define a model based on the entropy, or
“average surprisal”, of a system, and demonstrate that elements at both
extremes of surprisal are targeted for change. The linguistic effects of
change can also be described in terms of entropy: changes from high to low
surprisal are structure preserving, while those from low to high need not be.

Part II: Phonetic Considerations

3. Phonetic Bias in Sound Change, Andrew Garrett and Keith Johnson

Garrett and Johnson consider the phonetic basis of sound change, focusing on
questions of typology (why some changes are common, and why some are not -- a
“typology of causes”), and actuation (what triggers phonologization of a
phonetic element at a particular time and place). The model of phonologization
presented has three stages: (i) structured (i.e., biased) phonetic variation
in the signal, (ii) linguistically constrained selection of said variants, and
(iii) innovation by individuals who propagate changes.

They go on to provide evidence for each component, demonstrating that biases
in the production and perception of speech are non-random and directional, due
to such factors as motor planning, aerodynamic constraints, gestural
mechanics, and perceptual parsing. These individual factors interact with
systemic biases (second-order biases) arising from language-specific and
universal constraints. Finally, the authors describe a simulation model of
actuation based on variation in sociolinguistic awareness within a population
of speakers.

4. From Long to Short and from Short to Long: Perceptual Motivations for
Changes in Vocalic Length, Heike Lehnert-LeHouillier

Lehnert-LeHouillier attempts to account for the fact that,
crosslinguistically, some sound changes are bidirectional and some are
unidirectional. Examining the interaction of vowel duration with f0 and vowel
height, Lehnert-LeHouiller argues that unidirectional changes are driven by
intrinsic phonetic factors (those which affect all listeners in all
languages), while bidirectional changes are driven by extrinsic factors (those
which affect different languages differently). In this model, tightly
associated (intrinsic) cues, like spectral cues, are less likely to be
separated due to sound change, which is why vowel length distinctions arise
from height distinctions, but not vice versa; cues like f0 are extrinsically
associated with vowel height, and are more likely to become dissociated,
allowing the development of length contrasts from tonal contrasts, and the
reverse. This was supported by the results of a perceptual experiment
involving speakers from a number of languages with a vowel length contrast,
but varying degrees of association between vowel height, f0, and duration.

5. Inhibitory Mechanisms in Speech Planning Maintain and Maximize Contrast,
Sam Tilsen

Tilsen begins by noting that there are many cases where phonetic precursors to
phonological change are not phonologized, and that loss of contrast is a
possible but not inevitable outcome of sound change. Thus, it is important to
consider forces hindering phonologization, along with those favoring it.
Dispersion theories capture this notion at a language/typological level, but
not at the level of psychological mechanisms at play in individual speakers.
According to Tilsen, these are competing or coincident motor plans which
interact to push apart or maintain a contrast. This is supported by
experimental production studies demonstrating that when motor plans for nearby
categories are planned together, acoustic dissimilation results compared to
the same categories planned separately.

6. Developmental Perspectives on Phonological Typology and Sound Change,
Chandan Narayan

Narayan considers the roles of infants as listeners and caregivers as speakers
in shaping typological patterns of sound change, specifically examining the
way infant perceptual biases influence typology, and the characteristics of
infant directed speech which create the acoustic conditions for sound change.
Narayan hypothesizes that acoustic salience and biases unique to infants
mediate the relationship between perception and the inventory, leading to the
prediction that contrasts which require experience or learning are rarer
crosslinguistically. A series of case studies shows correlations between
contrast acoustics, infant perception, and typology. Not only do infants
operate in a biased way on speech input, but Narayan demonstrates that infant
directed speech differs from adult directed speech by analyzing the
relationship between pitch cues, voice onset time, and voicing contrasts in
English infant directed speech at different developmental stages.

Part III: Phonological and Morphological Considerations

7. Lexical Sensitivity to Phonetic and Phonological Pressures, Abby Kaplan

Kaplan attempts to determine whether the lexical frequency of phonological
patterns is driven by phonetic pressures, phonological markedness, or their
interaction. To do so, she compares intrinsic phonetic tendencies which have
been phonologized in some languages to those which have not been phonologized
in any language, finding that lexical patterns are affected by
crosslinguistically phonologized phonetic patterns (even if not phonologized
in a particular language), but not by phonetic patterns whose phonologization
is unattested. From this, Kaplan concludes that phonetic patterns do not
affect the lexicon directly, and that abstract phonological markedness
intervenes. Another formulation of this conclusion seems to be that only those
phonetic patterns that may be phonologized can affect the lexicon. Kaplan goes
on to consider alternative formulations of this model, and its extension to
phonological alternations.

8. Phonologization and the Typology of Feature Behaviour, Jeff Mielke

Mielke begins by juxtaposing two major theories about the nature of
distinctive features; either they are an innate part of Universal Grammar, or
they are emergent from phonetic patterns. Mielke analyzes a database of
phonetic patterns (P-base), counting and categorizing them according to the
type of pattern and the sets of phonological features which best describe
them. Patterns are classified as spreading, dissimilation, partitioning
(selecting targets or environments for alternations), or other processes.

Some distinctive features are more involved with some categories of patterns
than others, which Mielke links to differences in their phonetic correlates,
noting that those features involved in partitioning are those which have
proven to be the hardest to define cross-linguistically (e.g., laterals).
Mielke argues that differences between languages in the behavior of these
features should be accounted for by variation in the formation of features
from their phonetic correlates, rather than changes or additions to a
universal feature set.

9. Rapid Learning of Morphologically Conditioned Phonetics: Vowel Nasalization
Across a Boundary, Rebecca Morley

Languages vary not only in their phonological patterns, but in the nature and
degree of phonetic implementations (e.g., degree of vowel nasalization by a
nasal consonant), so these language-specific phonetics must be learned. These
can interact with morphology, and possibly other levels of prosodic structure
(i.e., derived environment effects). Morley’s goal is to establish a phonetic
origin for such domain-restricted processes, incorporating them into an
evolutionary phonology framework. An artificial language learning experiment
involving vowel nasalization is presented to determine whether listeners can
both attend to subphonemic variants and link them to morphological structure.
The results of a perceptual task indicate that listeners are sensitive to the
pattern. Morley argues that this sensitivity constitutes a first step in
phonologization, and speculates that perhaps all sound change begins at a
boundary; if true, derived environment effects could be of central, rather
than marginal importance.

Part IV: Social and Computational Dynamics

10. Individual Variation in Socio-cognitive Processing and Sound Change, Alan
C.L. Yu

Alan Yu considers psychosocial factors involved in the actuation and diffusion
of sound change. Sociolinguistic theories of language change include
linguistic ‘innovators’, and ‘propagators’ who spread changes through a
linguistic community. Yu attempts to determine the psychological and social
characteristics of these innovators, arguing that they arise in part from
individual differences in cognitive processing style -- so-called ‘autistic
traits’, even among typical individuals. These traits are shown to correlate
with perceptual compensation for coarticulation in speech, as well as social
characteristics like empathy. Yu suggests that a population of ‘minimal
compensators,’ defined by an imbalance between cognitive characteristics,
tolerate and use a wider range of variation within linguistic categories and
have a wide social network, making them good candidates to be leaders in
propagating sound change. Yu speculates about the role of individuals at the
other end of the spectrum from these minimal compensators, but the important
insight of this chapter is that not everyone operates on linguistic input in
the same way, and that variation in language may be accounted for as a
by-product of our cognitive, biological, and social makeup.

11. The Role of Probabilistic Enhancement in Phonologization, James Kirby

Kirby considers two central questions: first, why are only selected cues to a
contrast targeted for phonologization and not other potential targets; and
second, what causes transphonologization (dephonologization of one cue
following phonologization of another)? Reminiscent of Hume and Mailhot’s
approach (Chapter 2), Kirby’s model posits that the selection of cues for
(de)phonologization is based on adaptive enhancement of the contrast -- if
contrast precision is lost, cues change to compensate, and those cues which
change are those which are most informative. Kirby notes that listeners in the
real world are not ideal, and that all cues are not of equal importance.
Phonological categories are modeled as weighted mixtures of cues in an
agent-based system of listeners and talkers with four stages: production,
(talker) enhancement, (listener) bias, and categorization. This model is
applied to the case of phonologization of f0 from voicing contrasts in Seoul
Korean. Duration, harmonics, and burst amplitude are also cues to the voicing
contrast, but the model results in category changes matches those observed in
Seoul Korean (phonologization of f0, not other cues), without targeting any
specific cues for enhancement. This model clarifies the role of enhancement
and bias in change, and suggests that the selection of cues for
(de)phonologization can be predicted.

12. Modelling the Emergence of Vowel Harmony Through Iterated Learning,
Frederic Mailhot

Mailhot analyzes the diachronic emergence of vowel harmony (focusing on
lexical harmony, rather than alternations, as he considers this important for
understanding diachronic change) as resulting from a combination of synchronic
coarticulation and biased transmission. He presents a simple iterated learning
model, consisting of one “adult” and one “child” (learner) transmitting words
consisting of four vowels, defined by height and backness features. The
acoustic (f1, f2) values of these articulatory features are calculated from
category prototypes combined with coarticulation and noise. The learner
reverses this process, inferring representations of lexical items based on
acoustic prototypes. The properties of the learner’s lexicon vary, depending
on levels of noise, coarticulation, and hypocorrection, but there appear to be
stable states of the lexicon corresponding to no harmony, complete harmony,
and partial harmony across the lexicon. Thus, language-specific phonetic
differences, such as vowel-to-vowel coarticulation could be related to lexical
tendencies, and possibly phonological alternations.

13. Variation and Change in English Noun/Verb Pair Stress: Data, Dynamical
Systems Models, and their Interaction, Morgan Sonderegger and Partha Niyogi

Sonderegger and Niyogi take on the actuation problem: not all phonetic
variation results in phonological change, so why does some? The authors
examine stress shifts in English noun-verb pairs from 1700-2007, drawing data
from many dictionaries and incorporating differences in pronunciation entries
as evidence of variation. Several observations emerge from the behavior of
pairs over time: some stress patterns are “stable states” -- short term
variation around these stable states often occurs, and long-term shift from
one stable state to another sometimes occurs, but rarely for both members of
the noun-verb pair at the same time. The authors model noun-verb stress shifts
in the lexicon using factors based on how speakers deal with such variation in
the language, namely mistransmission, discarding (ignoring some variants), and
their combination. Mistransmission alone does not produce shifts matching the
observed data, but discarding and the combined model lead to bifurcations in
noun-verb pairs similar to those observed in the historical data. This model
illustrates the importance of combining individual and population level models
in accounting for historical change.

This volume does an excellent job at living up to its goal to provide a
comprehensive and state-of-the-science view on phonologization. Each chapter
raises interesting questions and invites further inquiry, and I have very few
substantive criticisms of the work as a whole.

The entire book would be an excellent introduction to phonologization for
advanced graduate students. There is a balance between chapters providing a
wider view of theories of sound change with those examining particular case
studies in detail (the latter nonetheless drawing general principles from said
examples). Important theories and models are discussed throughout, which
unites these chapters around common themes without being overly repetitive.

Each chapter also provides adequate context and background to stand alone, and
individual chapters will likely be of interest to students and researchers in
disciplines outside of linguistics, and linguists and psychologists with other
specializations who are interested in sound change should find them
accessible. For instance, the several chapters incorporating computational
models do a good job of describing in sufficient detail for the nonspecialist
the computational principles involved while maintaining a focus on the
relevant human/linguistic behavior; at the same time, they demonstrate
important applications of information theory and various modeling techniques
in linguistics. Computer scientists and other specialists will likely find
most chapters short on technical detail, but they successfully demonstrate the
application of these techniques to the unique characteristics of language and
provide an introduction and references to the linguistic theory involved.

As noted by Hyman in Chapter 1, phonologization touches upon and perhaps
provides useful evidence for other fundamental questions about language, such
as the nature and origin of grammar, and a subset of the chapters examine
related issues (e.g., 7, 8). Later chapters (e.g., 10, 13) link phonetic and
phonological aspects of language, which might be considered fairly
“micro-level” variation to those in other fields, to more general cognitive,
biological, and social dimensions of communication, thus linking diverse
points of the spectrum of human behavior together, and demonstrating the value
of multifaceted approach to understanding sound change taken in this volume,
which hopefully lead to the fruitful “cross-pollination” alluded to in the
introduction by editor Alan Yu.

Evan D. Bradley is Assistant Professor of Psychology at Pennsylvania State
University, Brandywine. He earned a PhD in Linguistics & Cognitive Science at
the University of Delaware, and a BA in Cognitive Science and Certificate in
Music at Northwestern University. His research interests include acoustic
phonetics, auditory perception, and phonological learning, as well as music
perception and cognition. His current work examines the perception and
learning of musical melody and lexical tone languages.
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