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Presents a new theoretical framework for the origins of human language and sets key issues in language evolution in their wider context within biological and cultural evolution


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Dissertation Information


Title: Representation and Variation in Substance-free Phonology: A case study in Celtic Add Dissertation
Author: Pavel Losad Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Degree Awarded: UiT The Arctic University of Norway , Center for Advanced Study in Theoretical Linguistics
Completed in:
2012
Linguistic Subfield(s): Phonology
Subject Language(s): Breton
Welsh
Director(s): Bruce Morén-Duolljá

Abstract: This thesis presents a comprehensive analysis of the phonological
patterns of two varieties of Brythonic Celtic in the framework of
substance-free phonology. I argue that cross-linguistic variation in
sound patterns does not derive solely from differences in grammars
(implemented as Optimality Theoretic constraint rankings). Instead, I
adopt the substance-free framework, based on the principle of
modularity and autonomy of the phonological component, to account
for cross-linguistic phonological and phonetic variation. Phonological
representations in substance-free phonology are built up without
regard to the physical implementation of phonological units, on the
basis of the system of contrasts and patterns of alternation. Although
this insight is not new when couched in terms of a language-specific
assignment of a set of universal phonological features, I argue that the
mapping between phonology and phonetics is also not universal and
deterministic, and reject the universality of the feature set. Instead, I
argue for a rich interface between phonology and phonetics.


Based on this understanding of the nature of variation, I provide a
holistic analysis of the sound systems of two closely related languages:
Pembrokeshire Welsh and Bothoa Breton. I propose an account in
terms of a rich representational theory. Among other proposals, I
defend the need for surface ternary contrasts, which I propose to
implement using feature geometry. I also show that the substance-free
approach, which decouples phonological representation from phonetic
realization, strikes the correct balance between innatist and
emergentist approaches to phonological markedness; I demonstrate
this by way of an extensive case study of laryngeal phonology, which
leads to a reinterpetation of the approach known as 'laryngeal realism'.
I also argue that the phonological component of grammar should allow
constraints with prima facie undesirable factorial consequences, if such
constraints are needed to account for functionally unmotivated sound
patterns, and discuss the consequences of this approach for the
substance-free nature of phonological computation.