LINGUIST List 8.689

Thu May 8 1997

Disc: Functionalism

Editor for this issue: Anthony Rodrigues Aristar <aristarlinguistlist.org>


Directory

  1. Geoffrey S. Nathan, Fortitions, lenitions etc.
  2. CHARLES REISS, Re: Question on functionalism
  3. Robert Kirchner, Re: Question on functionalism
  4. Norval Smith, Re: Fortitions, lenitions etc.

Message 1: Fortitions, lenitions etc.

Date: Thu, 08 May 1997 13:52:34 -0500
From: Geoffrey S. Nathan <geoffnsiu.edu>
Subject: Fortitions, lenitions etc.

 Further to Robert Kirchner's reply to Charles Reiss (LINGUIST 8.682) 
let me point out another fact about the differential behaviors
of reductive vs. enhancive (?) processes. Fortitions (in the Natural
Phonology sense) operate preferentially in emphatic, careful, angry,
ironic speech and in idioms meant to be taken literally (i.e. if a
real cat is out of a real bag, the speech will be much less lenited
than otherwise, and will show the effect of optional fortitions).
Some of these predictions have been verified experimentally
(references available upon request).
	Similarly, as Stampe pointed out years ago, lenitions are
preferentially applied in common phrases: 'I don't know' can be
pronounced without consonants, but 'I dent noses', underlyingly
segmentally virtually identical, can't. A theory in which lenitions
are speaker-centered, fortitions are hearer centered, and in which
there is an ongoing (and probably on-line) tension between the two is
the only reasonable hypothesis I have seen to explain the above facts.
	Further, it has been suggested in work by Dressler that fortitions and
lenitions also have sociolinguistic consequences, in that politeness and
deference favor fortitions, familiarity and rudeness favor lenitions.
Again, real speaker/hearer considerations are directly connected with the
process classes we are discussing.
	Lastly, let me make a plea for a historical perspective on
this debate. Although Robert Kirchner has been happily building these
notions into OT, he is well aware (and so I am hereby reminding
others) that these concepts originate WAY before the advent of
generative grammar, finding their roots in the work of nineteenth
century phonologists such as Baudouin de Courtenay, and in early
twentieth century phoneticians such as Sievers, Jespersen and
Grammont. Sorry, but I get a little tetchy about reinventing
wheels...

Geoff

Geoffrey S. Nathan
Department of Linguistics
Southern Illinois University at Carbondale,
Carbondale, IL, 62901 USA
Phone: +618 453-3421 (Office) FAX +618 453-6527
+618 549-0106 (Home)
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Message 2: Re: Question on functionalism

Date: Thu, 8 May 1997 12:07:43 -0400 (EDT)
From: CHARLES REISS <reissalcor.concordia.ca>
Subject: Re: Question on functionalism

I would like to thank Robert Kirchner (LINGUIST 8.682) for his helpful
comments. I am still a bit bewildered however. Here are a few more
questions:

1) It is true that lots of fast speech phenomena reduce 'complexity':
clusters are simplified, consonants assimilate, etc. However, I would
assume that a standard analysis of English must posit a constraint against
clusters of voiceless stops in onsets (presumably because they are hard to
say and/or hear). Yet the standard pronunciation of 'potato' in fast (i.e.
NORMAL) speech is [pteDo], or something similar. So it seems like the
functionalist conclusion must be that when we are trying least, we
sometimes do what's easy (according to the principles of markedness) and
sometimes do what's hard (according to those same principles). 

2) In response to Kirchner's predictions concerning what a 'contrarian'
grammar would generate, it seems necessary to remind ourselves that
constraints interact and are violable. We do not, in fact, want to exclude
rare phenomena (like dissimilation) from consideration. Imagine how
preposterous a universal syntactic theory would be if it attempted only to
account for common patterns.

3) If, as Kirchner discusses, lots of phonetic distributional patterns can
be explained on the basis of perceptual robustness, why do we need to
build this into the grammar? Contrasts that are hard to hear, are less
likely to be acquired. It is otiose to offer a grammatical, as well as a
perceptual/acquisition-based account of the same phenomenon.

4) Instead of concluding that we have Chapter 9 of SPE and markedness
theory, so we might as well use them, isn't it better to re-evaluate the
arguments that these were built on?




Charles Reiss
Department of Classics Modern Languages and Linguistics
Concordia University
1455 de Maisonneuve W.
Montreal,3G 1M8 H3G 1M
514 848-2310 (office)
514 848-8679 (fax)
514 598-1991 (home)
reissalcor.concordia.ca
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Message 3: Re: Question on functionalism

Date: Thu, 8 May 1997 12:23:39 -0500
From: Robert Kirchner <kirchnercogsci.uiuc.edu>
Subject: Re: Question on functionalism

At 12:07 PM 5/8/97 -0400, CHARLES REISS wrote (LINGUIST 8.680):

>1) It is true that lots of fast speech phenomena reduce 'complexity':
>clusters are simplified, consonants assimilate, etc. However, I would
>assume that a standard analysis of English must posit a constraint against
>clusters of voiceless stops in onsets (presumably because they are hard to
>say and/or hear). Yet the standard pronunciation of 'potato' in fast (i.e.
>NORMAL) speech is [pteDo], or something similar. So it seems like the
>functionalist conclusion must be that when we are trying least, we
>sometimes do what's easy (according to the principles of markedness) and
>sometimes do what's hard (according to those same principles). 
>
The optimal output for a given input depends, of course, on the identity of
the input. A [pt] clusters is presumably more effortful than [t] by
itself, but it's easier than [p] and [t] with an intervening voiced schwa
(which is presumably what we're starting from in "potato"), and a fortiori
easier than with a full vowel like [o], with tongue backing and lip
rounding, if you believe in phonemic URs. Initial [pt] clusters are
perceptually indistinct, because if the [p] is unreleased and there is no
preceding vowel, there are no strong cues to its identity. But perceptual
distinctness is precisely what's sacrificed in fast/casual speech, in the
interest of articulatory economy. 
 
>2) In response to Kirchner's predictions concerning what a 'contrarian'
>grammar would generate, it seems necessary to remind ourselves that
>constraints interact and are violable. We do not, in fact, want to exclude
>rare phenomena (like dissimilation) from consideration. Imagine how
>preposterous a universal syntactic theory would be if it attempted only to
>account for common patterns.

A plausible strategy to take within OT is that natural sound patterns
emerge from a wide range of rankings, while the more unnatural patterns
emerge only when a large number of constraints are ranked in a particular
way. I have some rather different ideas on this, in which unnatural
patterns (typically morphologically sensitive, and only marginally
productive) are treated as fossilized lexical patterns, which can be
extended by analogy to novel forms only if highly similar to the forms
instantiating the pattern. Analogical comparison is really just an
extension of the idea of output/output faithfulness proposed in a number of
recent OT articles; but I am getting far afield of Reiss's question.

Reiss, on the other hand, appears to be giving up on capturing naturalness
at all, advocating a theory in which, say, flapping and trisyllabic laxing
have the same formal status.

>3) If, as Kirchner discusses, lots of phonetic distributional patterns can
>be explained on the basis of perceptual robustness, why do we need to
>build this into the grammar? Contrasts that are hard to hear, are less
>likely to be acquired. It is otiose to offer a grammatical, as well as a
>perceptual/acquisition-based account of the same phenomenon.
>
No, it's not otiose if you're constructing the theory of grammar directly
from interaction between these conflicting phonetic factors, acquisitional
constraints, and the like. What is otiose is a stipulation of the
grammatical processes that follow from such interactions.

>4) Instead of concluding that we have Chapter 9 of SPE and markedness
>theory, so we might as well use them, isn't it better to re-evaluate the
>arguments that these were built on?
>
It seems to me that a theory of phonology without any aspirations of
capturing markedness observations is a fundamentally uninteresting
enterprise. But chacun a son gout.
Robert Kirchner Linguistics Dept.
kirchnercogsci.uiuc.edu U. Illinois, Urbana 61801 
 
 

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Message 4: Re: Fortitions, lenitions etc.

Date: Thu, 8 May 1997 23:05:33 +0200 (MET DST)
From: Norval Smith <Norval.Smithlet.uva.nl>
Subject: Re: Fortitions, lenitions etc.



On Thu, 8 May 1997, Geoffrey S. Nathan wrote (LINGUIST 8.689):

>....
> 	Lastly, let me make a plea for a historical perspective on this debate.
> Although Robert Kirchner has been happily building these notions into OT,
> he is well aware (and so I am hereby reminding others) that these concepts
> originate WAY before the advent of generative grammar, finding their roots
> in the work of nineteenth century phonologists such as Baudouin de
> Courtenay, and in early twentieth century phoneticians such as Sievers,
> Jespersen and Grammont. Sorry, but I get a little tetchy about reinventing
> wheels...
> 
> Geoff
> 
> Geoffrey S. Nathan
> Department of Linguistics
> Southern Illinois University at Carbondale,
> Carbondale, IL, 62901 USA
> Phone: +618 453-3421 (Office) FAX +618 453-6527
> +618 549-0106 (Home)
> 

No-one would want to deny that early phonologists like de Courtenay and so
on had many acute insights. However they were not able to produce a very
satisfactory theory of phonology. Late 20th century phonologists such as
the natural phonologists also had some good ideas - as well as doing their
own bit of wheel-reinventing (!) - but were also unable to integrate them
into a satisfactory theory of phonology.
	Combining functionalism and OT gets us quite a lot further.
Re-inventing wheels is not the question at issue - if more functional
phonologists (whether they regard themselves as natural phonologists or not) 
would take Optimality Theory on board, and more OT phonologists would
become convinced of the significance of the relevance of
functional aspects, then phonology could I think make even more advances
than those than have already been achieved with the advent of OT.
	One obvious loose end is of course the fact that we do not know
precisely what things are functional. and what not. However a combined
approach incorporating OT and functionalism should be promising in helping
identify less obvious functional aspects. 

Norval Smith


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