Alicia Beckford Wassink
Individual and joint projects on selected topics in theoretical and experimental phonetics. Topics may include articulatory timing, the phonetics phonology interface, and constraints and constraint interaction. Prerequisite: LING 450 or LING 452. Offered: Sp.
Winter 2001 - In this course, we will explore issues of phonetic perception, approaching the topic by focusing on case-in-point: the phenomenon referred to in phonetic and phonological theory as incomplete neutralization, and in sociolinguistic theory as near-merger. The topic of incomplete neutralization represents one area of interface between linguistic phonetics and sociolinguistics. A phonological contrast is said to be neutralized when a stable, minimal phonological distinction between sounds is lost. An example of one such neutralization process is "word-final devoicing", which has been cited for voiced and voiceless word-final consonants in Russian (Chen, 1970), Polish (Slowiaczek and Dinnsen, 1985), and German (Dinnsen and Garcia-Zamora, 1971) among other languages. Sociolinguistic and experimental phonetic research hassuggested that in many cases, speakers produce contrasting words differently, but without being able to reliably discern the contrast in their own speech or in the speech of others. Thus, for example, in certain posited cases of near-merger in vowels of one variety of American English, it appears that small, but systematic low-level phonetic effects to retain the contrast. We will explore how contrasts may be maintained using low-level phonetic phenomena. Across the quarter, we will explore the literature on incomplete neutralization, and examine acoustic phenomena using data the students produce in a series of laboratory experiments.
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