Adapted from an announcement by Sally Thomason:
[Andries Coetzee] … has been announced as the winner of the Linguistic Society of America’s Early Career Award. This award honors a junior scholar (no more than seven years after the Ph.D.) whose research has had the greatest impact on the field of linguistics. It’s a new award, so Andries is the very first winner. This is a major honor — the only award given by the LSA for research excellence alone.
Perhaps the award will heretofore be known as a “Coetzee”? Or an “Andrie?” Congratulations!
In other Andries Coetzee news (abstracts below):
- Colloquium Talk: Andries Coetzee gave a colloquium talk at Stony Brook on April 23. On the same day, he also attended a dissertation defense of a SUNY student as an outside member, Youngran An (http://www.linguistics.stonybrook.edu/students/young-ran.an), whose dissertation is about identity avoidance in Korean pseudo-reduplicates. The title of the colloquium talk was ” Developmental and predictability biases in phonological variation”.
- Paper Published: Coetzee, Andries W. & Rigardt Pretorius. 2010. Phonetically grounded phonology and sound change: the case of Tswana labial plosives. Journal of Phonetics, 38:404-421.
Over the past decade, the study of variation has become standard fare for theoretically oriented phonologists, and multiple different models of phonological variation have been developed in current theoretical models (Boersma & Hayes 2001; Anttila 1997; Coetzee 2006; etc.). These approaches have proved to be extremely successful at accounting for phonological variation. Not only can they account for where variation is observed and where not, but they also often predict the frequencies with which different variants are observed very accurately. This is usually presented as reason for celebration. “We have successfully solved the problem of variation!”
In this presentation, I will argue that this celebration is premature. These models of variation are all exclusively grammatical. Variation, on the other hand, has been demonstrated by decades of research in the variationist sociolinguistic paradigm to be influenced by grammar and many other factors. If an exclusively grammatical model accounts for all aspects of phonological variation, it therefore does more than its fair share of the work. It is then not an accurate model of the system in the mind of speakers that is responsible for producing variation. I will illustrate this problem by discussing variable word-final t/d-deletion in English (west/wes_), showing that it is influenced by ordinary grammatical/phonological factors but also by non-grammatical factors. Specifically, I will show that it is influenced by: (i) Predictability: More predictable words are more likely to undergo deletion. (ii) Language development: Early learners are more likely to apply deletion than adults.
I will then develop a model of phonological variation within Harmonic Grammar that allows both grammar and non-grammatical factors to influence phonological variation.
A widely held assumption in phonology is that phonology should be phonetically grounded. Under a strict version of this view, productive phonological processes that counter phonetic naturalness should not be possible. Traditional grammars of Tswana describe it as having a productive process of post-nasal devoicing of voiced plosives (/mb/?[mp]), counter to phonetic expectations. The vocal fold settings during the nasal should promote, not inhibit, voicing in a following consonant. Leakage through the velic valve during the initial part of the post-nasal oral closure should inhibit buildup of intra-oral air pressure and hence promote voicing. The unexpectedness of the Tswana pattern leads to questioning the accuracy and reliability of the traditional descriptions of this language. In this paper, we report an acoustic study of 12 Tswana speakers, showing that there is evidence that at least some speakers have an active, productive process of post-nasal devoicing. However, our data also show evidence that this phonetically unnatural system is unstable, and is in fact in the process of changing towards a more natural system. We consider the relevance of these results for views about the relationship between phonetics and phonology, and for theories of language change.