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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: The Atoms of Phonological Representation: Gestures, coordination, and perceptual features in consonant cluster phonotactics Add Dissertation
Author: Lisa Davidson Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Johns Hopkins University, Department of Cognitive Science
Completed in: 2003
Linguistic Subfield(s): Phonetics; Phonology;
Subject Language(s): English
Director(s): Paul Smolensky

Abstract: The central goal of this dissertation is to investigate the roles and interaction of articulatory, perceptual, and temporal elements in the phonological component of the grammar. This inquiry extends both to the input representations that are submitted to a phonological grammar, and to the constraints in the grammar. In order to adequately account for both production data and data from language typology, two elements must be integrated into the phonological component alongside articulatory gestures: perceptual features, which play an important role in determining phonotactic patterns, and gestural coordination, which establishes whether and how adjacent gestures are related to one another.

This dissertation reports three experiments on the production of word-initial consonant clusters; such clusters are an appropriate environment for investigating how perception, articulation, and coordination interact in the phonology. The first experiment is an acoustic study of the production by native English speakers of Czech-possible consonant clusters (e.g. fkale, zbano, vnodi). Results show that speakers are more accurate on some English-illegal phonotactic sequences than others. Speakers most often repair illegal target clusters by inserting a schwa between the two consonants in the cluster. The nature of this schwa is addressed in the second experiment. A comparison of speakers producing both phonotactically legal and illegal word-initial clusters using ultrasound imaging shows that speakers’ repairs of the illegal sequence are more consistent with the alteration of gestural coordination than with phonological vowel epenthesis. The third experiment addresses fast speech schwa deletion in English. Results from this experiment suggest that surface changes caused by speech rate may be implemented in the phonology through a modification of the coordination relationship between gestures.

The formal analysis of this data draws on insights from Articulatory Phonology (Browman and Goldstein 1986, et seq.) and the Licensing-by-Cue framework (Steriade 1997) to determine how articulatory, perceptual and temporal factors affect consonant cluster production. These factors are incorporated into a constraint-based phonological framework that not only accounts for the coordination between sequential gestures (COORDINATION constraints, based on Gafos 2002), but also determines which gestures are subject to such coordination (ASSOCIATION constraints) and whether the coordinated gestures form a phonotactically legal sequence (*OVERLAP constraints). Together, these constraints form Gestural Association Theory. The framework is extended to incorporate floating constraints to account for the variation observed in the experimental results.