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Bipasha_Universals in Phonology_Handout

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   Universals in Phonology Reference: Hyman, Larry. 2007. Abstract of „Universals in Phonology‟. UC Berkeley Phonology Lab Annual Report. Berkeley.Presented by Bipasha Patgiri [M.Phil 3 rd Semester] in Wednesday ‟ s Phonology Group Discussion under thesupervision of Prof. Pandey. Centre for Linguistics, SLL&CS, JNUDate: 18 th August, 2010Section 2. Universals in phonological inventories Section 2.2. Vowels  This paper addresses the age-old discussion over the issue of the existence of phonological universals inworld languages whether they are universals or language specific.1.   In the area of universals and typological research in Linguistics, study of both consonants and vowelshad been of a fascinating interest. However, the latter has been seen easier and more comfortable toestablish universals (ie, Vocalic Universals) for being less in number in almost all natural languagesand having less contrastive features than the consonants.2.   Trubetzkoy in his 1969 work  Principles of Phonology had discussed the contrasts underlying the vowel system on the basis of distinctive „sonority‟ and „timber‟ or, „roundness‟. These are,„triangular‟, „quadrangular‟ and „linear‟ systems.  3.   Tr ubetzkoy‟s systematiz ation has been criticised by John Cro thers in the 1978 article „Typology andUniversals of Vowel Systems‟ as there seem to be no importance of front -back distinction amonglow vowels and the number of vowels in a given language because, there exist languages of asymmetric system of vowel positioning.4.   World languages do exhibit different numbers of vowels in their inventory. And it is virtuallypossible to establish certain universals by categorising the languages in terms of their number of vowels as mentioned in UPSID (UCLA Phonological Segment Inventory Database) as follows:a)   23 languages have a three vowel system and five more languages have additional three or morelong vowels all showing some degrees of height differences. Through this systematic symmetryof three vowel systems, the Vocalic Universal#1 can be established: “Every phonological system contrasts at least two degrees of aperture”    Ian Maddieson in his 1997 article, „Phonetic Universals‟, also has supported this view: “ No language is known which does not have some distinctions of height”  b)   Four or more vowel system also support this universal.c)   There can be no „horizontal‟ vowel system like the „vertical‟ one. Thus, all languages must show some degrees of height differences.d)   There are languages which may not show either „frontness‟ or „roundness‟ contrast in their  inventory.e)   Most of the universals in this present paper have been established on the basis of UPSID numbers5.   Certain other vocalic universals are mentioned as follows:a)   Vocalic Universal#2: “Every phonological system has at least one front vowel or the palatal glide  /y/. ”  b)   Vocalic Universal#3: “Every phonological system has at least one unrounded vowel.” However, languages actually possess more than one- a minimum of two unrounded vowels.c)   Vocalic Universal#4: “Every phonological system has at least one back vowel.”  6.   Though in establishing vocalic universal in vertical vowel system, all the parameters like roundnessor front-back distinction have been taken care of, the most important one seems to be the vowel height dimension. This view is also supported by Ladefoged and Maddieson‟s 1996 monograph The Sounds of the World’s Languages.  a)   Vertical vowel system exhibit only central vowels for example /   ,  , a/, /   ,a/, /   ,a/ etc.b)   In vertical vowel system, „central vowels are pr  oposed only if front and rounded vowels arederived by transfer of these features from surrounding consonants. For example, /C y   / > [Ci]UR SR7.   a) There are four different ways in which languages systematize the color features Front and Round:-   on vowels and consonants /i, e, u, o, a/, /k, k  y , k  w  / -   on vowels only /i, e, u, o, a/, /k/ -   on consonants only /   ,  , a/, /k, k  y , k  w  / ( features spreading from consonants to vowels)  -   on whole morphemes /CVC/, CVC/  y , /CVC/  w (presence of prosodic features)b)   Vocalic universal#4 can be revised on the basis of the fact that the underlying vowels of avertical system are necessarily central, as follows: “A vowel system may be contrastive only for aperture only if its vowels acquire vowel color  from neighbouring consonants.”  8.   a) The feature „nasal‟ is not taken to be universal, as there are five different ways of treating „nasality‟ by world languages among which, one is a complete lack of it.  b)   Again, nasality is marked only on vowels eg. / i            ᷉ , u            ᷉ ,a            ᷉ / only if the nasal feature on vowels spreadsalso onto consonants.  c)   Thus, a vowel system can be contrastive for nasality only if there are output nasal consonants.9.   Though vowels are less in number than consonants, there are more number of absolute universals forvowels (a total of 6) than consonants (a total of 4).Section 2.3. Discussion Some generalisations can be attained from the above universals with some unresolved queries:10.   Though, exhibiting stops and coronals for consonants and having height distinction for vowels areprimary in the phonemic inventory of languages, there are also other features (eg, voice and nasalityin adition to some more places of articulation for consonants and color features for vowels) to beadded on. Here, the question arises, „ why these universals seem to be inadequate at times? ‟ .11.   There is apparently no language which has only consonants or only vowels, and there is no languagewhich has only sonorants. But, „ why do all languages have both sonorants and obstruents? ‟ despitethe fact that sonorants are, themselves capable of making contrastive phonemic distinctions.12.   Sonority hierarchy scale proves that at both the extremes of it, all languages have contrastive stops(or, rather voiceless obstruents) and contrastive vowel heights.13.   CV is a preferred syllable structure in almost all world languages than VC structure.14.   There is a rightward rise of sonority towards the peak of a syllable and a falling from it as suggested  by Clements‟ 1990 work „The role of sonority cycle in core syllabification‟.  15.   An observation by Harris (2006) in „The phonology of being understood: further arguments againstsonority‟ : “There is an inherent proper  ty of speech taht seems at first sight paradoxical: most of the soundenergy is concentrated in vowels, while most of the linguistically significant information is concentrated in consonants...”   *****************************
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