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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: Understanding Nasality Add Dissertation
Author: Karthik Durvasula Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: University of Delaware, Department of Linguistics
Completed in: 2009
Linguistic Subfield(s): Phonetics; Phonology;
Director(s): Peter Cole
William Idsardi
Uri Tadmor
Jeffrey Heinz

Abstract: The central aim of this dissertation is to further our understanding of the phonological feature underlying nasality, and thereby improve our understanding of phonological representations and the phonology-phonetics interface, in general. Specifically, I show that given appropriate abstraction and appropriate phonology-phonetics mapping principles, we can most insightfully account for both categorical featural behaviour and variable feature manifestations of nasal segments.

The bulk of the dissertation is devoted to a careful study of segments that have been lumped together under the cover term 'prenasalised stops' (or partially-nasal stops (PNS), in this dissertation). I show that, contrary to the standard view in the phonological literature, there are at least two distinct types of PNS: 1) Nasal-based partially-nasal stops (N-PNS), and 2) Voice-based partially-nasal stops (V-PNS). N-PNS are featurally identical to simple nasal stops that surface as PNS, and are found in languages with no separate nasal series; V-PNS are segments featurally identical to fully-voiced stops that surface as PNS. I argue that their behaviours are best accounted for by re-conceptualising the phonological feature [nasal], as the dimension Soft Palate (SP), which is sensitive to a set of (universal) phonology-phonetics mapping principles. Crucially, the gestural/phonetic manifestation of the discrete representation 'SP' is shown to be sensitive to the nature of laryngeal contrast in the specific syllable position.

I further argue that 'post-stopped nasal' segments, which have previously been grouped with PNS, do not constitute a genuine variety of PNS. From their phonological and phonetic properties, it is clear that they are neither N-PNS, nor V-PNS. In fact, I show that all their phonetic and phonological properties are accounted for by reclassifying them as obstruent nasals. However, the existence of obstruent nasals creates a problem for all recent accounts of nasal harmony, as obstruent opacity in nasal harmony is usually accounted for through the claim that obstruent nasals are phonetically impossible. I show that the phonological representation of nasality and feature-gesture mapping principles developed for PNS in this dissertation, along with other general principles discussed in the phonological literature can be used to give a straight-forward
analysis for the problematic data.

The dissertation also shows that the phonological feature representing nasality must have an articulatory definition. Specifically, I show that aspirate segments have acoustic effects (perceived as nasalization) nearly identical to nasal segments on adjacent segments. Despite this phonetic precursor, aspirate segments, unlike nasal segments, never trigger nasal harmony processes. I use this bias in nasal harmony processes to compare different distinctive feature theories, and conclude that unconstrained emergentist approaches, and auditory feature theories have serious problems in accounting for the data, while distinctive feature theories that necessitate an articulatory definition like articulatory feature theories, translational feature theories, and articulatorily-bootstrapped emergentist feature theories can insightfully account for the data.