The journal Language is the official journal of the Linguistic Society of America, and publishes only the highest quality research that is of broad interest to the field of linguistics. It is a testament to the quality of the research produced by Michigan linguists that Language has published papers by several members of our community in recent years - including papers by Robin Queen on Turkish-German bilinguals , Pam Beddor on sound change, Jeff Heath on Dogon, and Carmel O'Shannessy on Light Warlpiri.
Continuing this trend, a paper by Andries Coetzee appeared in the most recent volume of Language. In this paper, titled "Grammatical change through lexical accumulation: Voicing cooccurrence restrictions in Afrikaans", Andries investigates a new consonant co-occurrence restriction in Afrikaans, his native language. Consonant co-occurrence restrictions are very common cross-linguistically, and their origin has been a topic of active research in phonology and historical linguistics over the past several decades. Andries shows the new Afrikaans restriction did not arise through one of the two usual routes (articulatory simplification or systematic misperception), but rather through a slow process of lexical accumulation. In addition to documenting the new restriction, the paper therefore also argues for a new way in which grammatical change can come about. The full bibliographic information of the paper, together with an abstract, is given below.
Coetzee, Andries W. (2014) Grammatical change through lexical accumulation: Voicing cooccurrence restrictions in Afrikaans. Language, 90:693-721.
Two explanations are offered in the literature for the origin of lexical patterns of consonantal voicing cooccurrence: (i) speaker-oriented: a cooccurrence pattern may result from voicing assimilation under ease-of-articulation pressures, and (ii) listener-oriented: a cooccurrence pattern may result from systematic misperception by listeners. This article argues for a third possible origin of such patterns: (iii) lexical accumulation: a series of unrelated sound changes may conspire to create a lexical pattern of voicing cooccurrence. Once introduced into the lexicon of some language through any of these three routes, speakers can elevate such a pattern to a grammatical principle. A new voicing cooccurrence pattern in Afrikaans is presented as an example of a pattern that arose via this third route of lexical accumulation. Evidence is also presented that this pattern is being learned as a grammatical constraint by Afrikaans speakers.