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 <>

Date: 31-Oct-2012
From: YU-AN LU <>
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 thecontributions of two factors, distribution and alternation, in leading speakersto group sounds as members of the same category. Using previouslyestablished methods of testing speakers' perception and processing ofsounds—similarity ratings, discrimination on a continuum, and semanticpriming—I investigate the processing of coronal fricatives in three differentlanguages: (i) English, in which the contrast between s and sh may signaldifferences in meaning (as in see vs. she), though the two sounds participatein limited morphological alternations as in press/pressure; (ii) Korean, inwhich s and sh are in complementary distribution and participate in regularand productive morphological alternations; and (iii) Mandarin, in which s andsh are in complementary distribution but do not participate in allomorphicalternations due to Mandarin's lack of affixation and its phonotacticrestrictions. The relationship between s and sh in Mandarin, due to theconflicting evidence from distribution and alternation, has been a matter ofcontroversy. The results from the similarity rating experiment showed thatboth the Mandarin and English speakers rated s vs. sh as more different thandid Korean speakers, suggesting that the Mandarin speakers, who haveaccess only to distributional evidence, are less likely to treat s/sh asmembers of a single category than the Korean speakers, who are exposed toevidence from both distribution and morphological alternation. Furthermore,the judgments from the speakers of all three languages varied in differentvowel contexts, suggesting that the assignment of two sounds as membersof the same or separate categories is not necessarily absolute. Thesefindings suggest that multiple factors contribute to the formation of phonemecategories and that phonological relationships are gradient rather thancategorical.

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