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How (not) to do (areal) phonological typology

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  • UserPavel Iosad (University of Edinburgh)
  • ClockThursday 10 June 2021, 17:30-19:00
  • HouseOnline.

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What is the role of phonological patterns in establishing linguistic areality? This question presents something of a paradox: although some of the earliest work in areal linguistics, notably the contributions by Roman Jakobson, very much focused on phonology, sound patterns do not play a prominent role in many well-established (or at least much-discussed) linguistic areas. As linguistic typology moves from a focus on classifying languages to questions of ‘what’s where why’, there is now a real opportunity to reevaluate areal phonological patterns, especially with the use of large typological databases.

In this talk I argue that while this task is definitely worthwhile, given some real recent advances in the field, it needs to be more clearly embedded in phonological theory. I consider some pitfalls related to the construction of databases centred on phoneme inventories, focusing in particular on cross-linguistics differences in the structure and implementation of laryngeal contrasts. I also offer a different approach that might allow phonological typology to be more clearly embedded in the diachronic dimension of typology, by way of a discussion of the phenomenon of shared sound changes as a way of probing areal developments in phonology.

This talk is part of the Cambridge University Linguistic Society (LingSoc) series.

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