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Phondi: San Duanmu "Phonological Analysis and Marginal Syllables"

Friday, March 20, 2015
12:00 AM
473 Lorch Hall

Phonological Analysis and Marginal Syllables

San Duanmu is presenting in today's Phondi meeting. The title and abstract of his presentation are given below.

Phonological Analysis and Marginal Syllables

The phonological analysis of a language often depends on how ‘marginal’ syllables are treated. For example, [?] is a phoneme in English because it can occur in word-initial positions and [ts] is a cluster of two phonemes because it cannot occur in word-initial position. This analysis treats the first syllable in Tswana [tswana] to be a marginal one and excludes it from proper English data. Similarly, [æ] is often thought to be a lax vowel in English because it cannot occur at the end of a word; this analysis treats [næ] (for ‘no’) and [bæ] (a sound made by a sheep) to be marginal syllables and should be excluded.

Marginal syllables usually do not occur in large quantities. However, when they do, we may have to reconsider where to draw the line between proper data and marginal data. In this talk I consider a case in Beijing Chinese, on which Standard Chinese is based. If we exclude ‘marginal’ syllables (interjections, onomatopoeic words, contractions, informal words, and suffixed words), there are 409 syllables excluding tones or 1,641 including tones. However, if marginal syllables are included, there are 731 syllables excluding tones or 2903 including tones, an increase of nearly 80% of the original data. I shall analyze both data sets and show how the results differ, both in the resulting phoneme inventories and in constraints over occurring and non-occurring syllables.