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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

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Dissertation Information

Title: An Effort-Based Approach to Consonant Lenition Add Dissertation
Author: Robert Kirchner Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: University of California, Los Angeles, Department of Linguistics
Completed in: 1998
Linguistic Subfield(s): Phonology;
Subject Language(s): Italian
Director(s): Donca Steriade

Abstract: Despite the pervasiveness of lenition in the sound systems of natural language, this class of patterns has eluded adequate characterization in previous theories of phonology. Specifically, previous theories have failed to capture formally the phonetic unity of the various lenition processes (e.g. degemination, voicing, spirantization, debuccalization, deletion), or to account for the environments in which lenition typically occurs. I present a unified approach to consonant lenition, wherein particular lenition patterns arise from Optimality Theoretic conflict between a principle of effort minimization (which I style LAZY), and faithfulness to auditory features, in combination with (perceptually-based) fortition constraints, building upon the proposals of Jun (1995) and Flemming (1995). I further demonstrate that this effort-based approach straightforwardly accounts for a number of generalizations, drawn from a survey of 272 grammars:

- Geminate stops never lenite unless they concomitantly degeminate.
- Unaffricated stops never synchronically spirantize to strident fricatives.
- All else being equal, lenition occurs more readily the greater the openness of the flanking segments (the widely attested pattern of intervocalic lenition being a special case).
- Lenition occurs more readily the faster or more casual the speech.

The approach is illustrated with case studies of lenition in Tumpisa Shoshone and Florentine Italian.