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The Phonetics-Phonology Interface

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Hae-Sung JEON.

We invite students and academic staff to a one-day seminar on the Phonetics-Phonology Interface, organised by the Phonology/Phonetics Research Cluster at the Department of Linguistics, University of Cambridge. There will be talks by Prof. D. R. Ladd (University of Edinburgh) and Prof. Marilyn Vihman (University of York) followed by discussion.

Please email Hae-Sung Jeon ( by 11 June to register, with your name, position, department, and whether you would like to join us for dinner in Sala Thong (6.20 pm, 35 Newnham Road). Although there is no attendance fee for the seminar, registration is required.

Abstracts & reading suggestions

Segmental Analogies for Intonational Gradience

D. R. Ladd, University of Edinburgh

It has long been recognised that certain aspects of intonation involve “gradience” (e.g. increasing pitch range for emphasis), but applying this notion in practice has always been a source of disagreement. There are still many specific cases, such as the difference between H(star) and L+H(star) in ToBI transcriptions of English, that are analysed by some descriptions as involving two categories and by others as involving a single category that is gradiently variable. Experimental phonetic evidence is usually compatible with either interpretation: proponents of a categorical distinction can argue that an apparent phonetic continuum simply reflects the overlapping phonetic realisation of phonologically distinct categories represented by the continuum’s extremes. I propose that we can investigate this question indirectly based on segmental analogues.

Although most segmental distinctions are categorical and clearly distinct, there are cases in which phonetic realisations overlap and perceptual discrimination is difficult. Examples in English include junctural distinctions (e.g. Norman Elson vs Norma Nelson) and morphologically distinct homophones (e.g. band vs banned). Intuitively, the former involves two categories whose phonetic realisations overlap, whereas the latter involves a single phonological form that may exhibit meaningful gradient variation (e.g. of duration). If this intuitive distinction can be put on a firmer basis (e.g. if we could show that the statistical distribution of phonetic variability is different in the two types of cases) we may be able to identify an empirical criterion for distinguishing “gradience” from mere variability that could be applied to intonation as well.

Reading suggestions:

Braun, B. 2006. Phonetics and phonology of thematic contrast in German. Language and Speech, 49, 451-93.

Hirschberg, J. & Ward, G. 1992. The influence of pitch range, duration, amplitude and spectral features on the interpretation of the rise-fall-rise intonation contour in English. Journal of Phonetics, 20, 241-251.

Ladd, D. R. Intonational Phonology. 2008. 2nd edition. Cambridge University Press. ( 4.2, and 4.2.2 in particular)

The Role of Phonetics, Phonology and Memory in Early Word Production Templates

Marilyn Vihman, University of York

The fact that children often form ‘whole-word’ production patterns or representations early in their phonological development has long been noted (Menn, 1971, 1983; Waterson,1971; Ferguson & Farwell, 1975; Macken, 1979). Since the 70’s data have gradually accumulated to indicate that clear word templates characterize the development of many, if not all children, with some typological differences by target language (Vihman & Croft, 2007; Vihman, in press). In addition, the few studies that draw on word forms produced after the single-word period indicate that templates fade as the child’s vocabulary and consonant inventory increase (Smith, 1973; Priestly, 1977; Macken, 1979; Oliveira, 2007; Vihman & Vihman, in press), and templates may be reused at later lexical points as new challenges arise (Vihman, 1978, 1996; Lleó, 1990; Vihman & Vihman, in press). The far more numerous studies of early template formation support these general conclusions as well (e.g., Vihman & Velleman, 1989, 2000; Vihman, 1993; Vihman, Velleman & McCune, 1994; Jaeger, 1997; Savinainen-Makkonen, 2007; Keren-Portnoy et al., 2008).

The focal questions for this talk relate to the origin of phonological templates in development: Are they due to misperception or incomplete phonological representations? Articulatory difficulty (in production per se or in planning)? Or should we invoke memory issues, i.e, online access? And how should we reconcile the evidence from production data with the findings of experimental studies that find ‘finely detailed representations’ in children of various ages and stages of phonological development (from 7 to 24 months: see especially studies by Jusczyk, Plunkett, Swingley, Werker and their colleagues)? This talk will explore answers to these questions and will provide a preview of the findings of two experimental studies in progress, designed to test the psychological significance of templates for both perception and word-learning in two-year-olds.

Reading suggestions:

Vihman, M. M. & Croft, W. 2007. Phonological development: Toward a ‘radical’ templatic phonology. Linguistics, 45, 683-725.

Vihman, M. M., DePaolis, R. A., & Keren-Portnoy, T. 2009. A Dynamic Systems approach to babbling and words. In E. L. Bavin (Ed.) The Cambridge Handbook of Child Language. pp. 163-182. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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