Andries Coetzee recently gave a talk at the 10th Old World Conference in Phonology, at the Bogaziçi University in Istanbul, Turkey. The OCP (as this conference is known) is one of two major European conferences focused on phonological theory, and attracts phonologists from across Europe, Asia, the Pacific and the Americas. This year's conference had as invited speakers several illustrious linguists, including the founder of Generative Grammar, Noam Chomsky, and the founder of Government Phonology, Jonathan Kaye.
Andries's talk focused on a newly arising voicing co-occurrence restriction in his native language, Afrikaans. In his presentation, he first documented the existence of the co-occurrence restriction, and then traced the developments from Dutch to Afrikaans that resulted in the introduction of this restriction to the Afrikaans lexicon, showing that the Afrikaans restriction did not arise through the usual listener- or speaker-oriented routes, but rather through a unique lexical route. The title and abstract of his presentation are given below.
The origin of voicing co-occurrence restrictions: The case of Afrikaans
Many languages have restrictions on the co-occurrence of laryngeally marked segments (such as voiced obstruents, aspirates, glottalized consonants, etc.). Current theories of sound change ascribe the origin of these restrictions either to speaker-oriented articulatory forces (grammaticalization of articulatory simplification) or to listener-oriented perceptual forces (grammaticalization of misperception). In this presentation, I will argue for a third possible source for these co-occurrence restrictions, based on a newly developing restriction in Afrikaans. I will argue that co-occurrence restrictions can also arise via a lexical route. Through the gradual lexical accumulation of sound changes, a pattern consistent with a co-occurrence restriction can accidentally arise in the lexicon of some language. Once the pattern has been lexically established, language users can then elevate the pattern to a grammatical principle via a statistical learning mechanism.
I will first establish the existence of the voicing co-occurrence restriction in Afrikaans relying on the three kinds of evidence: (i) Evidence for the pattern in the Afrikaans lexicon. (ii) The results of a wug-test with Afrikaans speakers. (iii) Evidence from non-standard minority varieties of Afrikaans in which the restriction has been established more firmly than in Standard Afrikaans. I will then trace the developments of the Afrikaans lexicon from Dutch, showing that the lexical pattern in Afrikaans is an accidental side-effect of a series of unrelated sound changes that applied in the development from Dutch to Afrikaans.