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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: Repetition Avoidance in Human Language Add Dissertation
Author: Mary Ann Walter Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Department of Linguistics and Philosophy
Completed in: 2007
Linguistic Subfield(s): General Linguistics; Psycholinguistics;
Director(s): Donca Steriade

Abstract: Repetition is avoided in countless human languages and at a variety of
grammatical levels. In this dissertation I ask what it is that makes
repetition so bad. I propose that at least three distinct biases against
repetition exist. First, repetition of articulatory gestures is relatively
difficult. This difficulty results in phonetic variation that may lead to
categorical phonological avoidance. I call this set of claims the
Biomechanical Repetition Avoidance Hypothesis (BRAH), and support it with
evidence from cross-linguistic patterns in repetition avoidance phenomena,
articulatory data from music performance, and a series of phonetic
experiments that document the proposed types of phonetic variation. Based
on these data, I give an evolutionary account for antigemination in

The second anti-repetition bias is a perceptual deficit causing speakers
not to perceive one of a sequence of repeated items, of any conceptual
category. This bias is already well-documented, as are the grammatical
effects (primarily haplology). I provide here the evidence of gradient
variation in production bridging the two, from avoidance of homophone
sequences in English corpora.

The third factor is a principle disallowing the repetition of syntactic
features in certain configurations within a phase domain. I document
categorical effects of it in Semitic syntax of possession and
relativization. These elicit repair strategies superficially similar to
those of phonology (specifically, deletion and epenthesis/insertion).

Repetition effects, then, are traceable to a variety of independent,
functional biases. This argues against a unitary, innate constraint against
repetition. Rather, multiple anti-repetition biases result in particular
avoidance patterns, with their intersection producing additional
asymmetries. Possible categorical repairs are further constrained by the
nature of the formal grammatical system.