Issues and implications in segmental structure

This course is an intermediate/advanced introduction to the kinds of issues that are discussed in the study of phonology below the level of the segment. It is often claimed (for example, in Ewen & van der Hulst 2001) that phonological theory can be split into theories about the number and nature of phonological levels, phonological derivations, and phonological representations. This course focuses squarely on issues of phonological representation, which can largely be discussed separately from questions about how these representations interact with each other (which could be modelled by rules, or by the interaction of constraints or principles). The issues discussed here cover those which have been referred to as 'distinctive feature theory', 'element theory', 'feature geometry', 'subsegmental structure' and 'complex segment theory,' among others.

All phonologists agree that we need a theory of representations, and many agree that these representations involve articulated structure beneath the segmental level, but that is where much of the agreement ends. Many differing models of subsegmental structure have been proposed, and there are currently several competing basic models (within which there are disagreements about, for example, the precise number and nature of subsegmental primes which should be adopted). In this course we will investigate the issues which have led to the adoption of these different models and the implications which follow from their adoption. We will examine the fundamental concepts which determine the basis of these models, and investigate what kinds of phonological evidence has been used to argue that one model is better than another. We will also see how theories of representation have taken on differing levels of importance in different general phonological frameworks (eg, Government Phonology, Optimality Theory).

Issues which are to be addressed include whether and why models adopt (i) binary features or privative elements, (ii) an acoustic, articulatory or abstract basis for features or elements, and (iii) substantial or little organisation among features or elements. We will investigate to what extent consonants and vowel are made up of the same subsegmental primes and how phonological processes such as assimilation, vowel harmony and lenition can been used as evidence for segmental structure. We will also consider how one segment can be made up of two structures (in complex segments) and focus, as a case study, on laryngeal features/elements.

Reading: Readings and handouts will be provided during the course, but some indicative reading is given here (only parts of some of these deal with segmental structure):

Hall, T. (ed.) (2001) Distinctive Feature Theory. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Harris, J. (1994) English Sound Structure. Oxford: Blackwell.
Ewen, C. & van der Hulst, H. (2001) The Phonological Structure of Words. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Iverson, G. & Salmons, J. (1995) 'Aspiration and laryngeal representation in Germanic' Phonology 12, 369-396.
Lombardi, L. (1991) Laryngeal Features and Laryngeal Neutralisation. PhD. University of Massachusetts at Amherst. Published (1994), New York: Garland.
Roca, I. (1994) Generative Phonology. London & New York: Routledge.
Scheer, T. (1998) 'A theory of consonantal interaction'. Folia Linguistica 32, 201-237.
van de Weijer, J. (1996) Segmental Structure and Complex Segments. Tübingen: Niemeyer.