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Ploch, Stefan (1999) Nasals on my mind : The phonetic and the cognitive approach to the phonology of nasality. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI: https://doi.org/10.25501/SOAS.00028526

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Abstract

This thesis compares two approaches to the phonology of nasality and consists therefore of two main parts: the phonetic approach, which is discussed in part 1, and the cognitive approach (part 2). This is to say that this thesis investigates how the Language Acquisition Device employs nasality to define vocalic or consonantal systems of contrast, on the one hand, and phonotactic constraints and phonological processes, on the other. Ultimately, the phonetic approach is rejected, while the cognitive view is argued to be the more empirical one. Part 1, which deals with the phonetic approach, has three chapters. In chapter 1, I show after a brief introduction to Popper's evolutionary view of research and empiricism, that the assumption that the phonologial behaviour of nasality or any other phonetically defined notion is phonetically motivated or grounded (the 'Phonetic Hypothesis', 'PH') is flawed. Chapter 2 investigates feature theories, e.g. underspecification and feature geometry, and discusses the metatheoretical problems these framework have due to the assumption of the PH. This demonstrates that phonological processes involving 'nasality' cannot be explained by the employment of features. In Chapter 3,1 look at the commonly held view that there is a phonetically motivated phonologically relevant link between nasality and vocalic height or consonantal place of articulation (the 'Heightmyth', 'HM'). Part 2 of this thesis shows in four chapters how a cognitive account avoids the metatheoretical problems of the phonetic approach. In addition, it introduces a new proposal in relation to the acquisitional role of phonology: Chapter 4 provides an introduction to Government Phonology ('GP') and, more specifically, to GP's subtheories dealing with melody: (Revised) Element Theory and the Theory of Generative Constraints. This chapter demonstrates that there are languages with phonetically oral vowels which can phonetically nasalise following oral consonants. In chapter 5, I put forward evidence for the merger of Kaye, Lowenstamm & Vergnaud's L- and N-element into one new element (new) L. The main advantages of such a move are that it helps to keep overgeneration down and that it provides the basis for a integrated account for the cross-linguistically attested phenomena of nasality-induced voicing, Dahl's and Meinhof's Law. Chapter 6 investigates Quebec French nasal vowels, Montpelier VN-sequences and English NC-clusters and proposes a unified account for them. This analysis includes a cognitive explanation of the French version of the Heightmyth, i.e. for the observation that French vowels may not be high. Finally, in chapter 7, I demonstrate that the view that the PH is mistaken points to a new insight: Acoustic cues do not only contain much phonologically useless packaging in addition to phonologically relevant material, but also underdetermine the phonological representation. In other words, acoustic cues do not always contain all the information necessary to determine the internal representation of a segment. This is due to a phenomenon I have labelled 'acoustic cue overlap'. I can show for a number of Turkic vowel systems that they could not be acquired without the help of phonological processes (I- and U-harmony). Similarly, even though phonetically defined cues like 'voiced' or 'voiceless' for segments do not contain much useful information in relation to the phonological behaviour of the segments involved, there is cross-linguistic evidence for my claim that many consonant systems (including those exhibiting voiced-voiceless contrasts) could not be acquired without the helping, i.e. disambiguating, hand of phonology. All in all, the cognitive approach to phonology will not only be shown to be more empirical than the phonetic approach but also to be much more insightful. (Abstract shortened by ProQuest.).

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier): https://doi.org/10.25501/SOAS.00028526
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 14:58
URI: https://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/28526

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