Sound change and its relationship to variation in production and categorization in perception by Jonathan Harrington (Institute of Phonetics and Speech Processing, Ludwig-Maximilians University of Munich, Germany)
In some models (Lindblom et al, 1995; Bybee, 2002), sound change is associated with the type of synchronic reduction that occurs in prosodically weak and semantically predictable contexts. In other models (Ohala, 1993), sound change can be brought about through listeners’ misperception of coarticulation in speech production. The talk will draw upon both models in order to explore whether coarticulatory misperception is more likely in prosodically weak contexts. In order to do so, the magnitude of trans-consonantal vowel coarticulation was investigated in /pV1pV2l/ non-words with the pitch-accent falling either on the first or second syllable and in which V1 = /ʊ, ʏ/ and V2 = /e, o/. The analysis of these words produced by 20 L1-German speakers showed that prosodic weakening caused vowel undershoot in /ʊ/ but had little effect on V2-on-V1 coarticulation. In a perception experiment, a V1 = /ʊ-ʏ/ continuum was synthesised and the same speakers made forced choice judgements to the same non-words with the prosody manipulated such that stress was perceived on V1 or on V2. Listeners compensated for V2-on-V1 coarticulation; however, the magnitude of compensation was less in the prosodically weak than in the strong context. The general conclusion is that segmental context influences both the dynamics of speech production and perceptual categorization, but not always in the same way: it is this divergence between the two which may be especially likely in prosodically weak contexts and which may, in turn, facilitate sound change.
ReferencesBybee, J. (2002). Word frequency and context of use in the lexical diffusion of phonetically conditioned sound change. Language Variation Change, 14, 261–290. Lindblom, B., Guion, S., Hura, S., Moon, S. J., and Willerman, R. (1995). Is sound change adaptive? Rivista di Linguistica, 7, 5–36. Ohala, J. J. (1993). Sound change as nature’s speech perception experiment. Speech Communication, 13, 155–161.