Against Gradual Phonologization

Josef Fruehwald (2014)


The conventional wisdom regarding phonologization is that it progresses as a sequence of gradual reanalyses: natural acoustic, physiological and perceptual phenomena are re- analyzed as gradient coarticulatory processes, which are then reanalyzed as categorical phonological processes (Ohala, 1981; Berm´udez-Otero, 2007). I argue that this model of gradual and gradient reanalyses is not well supported by available data on sound change in progress. In fact, based on analyses of the rate of change of multiple vowel variants, and in investigations of mismatches between the predictions based on phonetic versus phonologi- cal grounds, it appears that new phonological processes enter the grammar at the onset of phonetic changes, rather than as later stage reanalyses of phonetic changes in progress.

Presented at Symposium on Historical Phonology

Poster PDF

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