Crosslinguistic evidence for a strong statistical universal: Phonological neutralization targets word-ends over beginnings
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PublisherLINGUISTIC SOC AMER
CitationWedel, A., Ussishkin, A., & King, A. (2019). Crosslinguistic evidence for a strong statistical universal: Phonological neutralization targets word-ends over beginnings. Language, 95(4), e428–e446. https://doi.org/10.1353/lan.2019.0082
RightsCopyright © 2019. Printed with the permission of Andrew Wedel, Adam Ussishkin, & Adam King.
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AbstractWe report a statistical test of a long-standing hypothesis in the literature: that phonological neutralization rules are more common at the ends of lexical domains than the beginnings (Houlihan 1975 et seq.). We collected descriptive grammars for an areally and genetically diverse set of fifty languages, identified all active phonological rules that target the edge of a lexical domain (root, stem, word, phrase or utterance), and further coded each rule for whether it was phonemically neutralizing, that is, able to create surface homophony. We find that such neutralizing rules are strongly, significantly less common at the beginning of lexical domains relative to ends, and that this pattern is strikingly consistent across all languages within the dataset. We show that this pattern is not an artifact of a tendency for syllable codas to be a target for phonological neutralization, nor is associated with a suffixing or prefixing preference. Consistent with previous accounts, we argue that this pattern may be ultimately based in the greater average information content of phonological categories early in the word, which itself is a consequence of incremental processing in lexical access.
Note12 month embargo; published online: 4 December 2019
VersionFinal published version