Monday, September 19, 2011

Guest Speaker: Will Oxford, University of Toronto

We are pleased to welcome back Will Oxford on September 29 at 12:00 (noon) in SN 2064! He will be speaking on ""Patterns of contrast in Algonquian vowel systems". All are welcome to attend. 


This presentation examines the historical development of Algonquian vowel systems from the perspective of contrastive underspecification.  The presentation is based on a survey of all major vowel changes across the Algonquian family (approximately 20 languages and 50 changes).  I will propose that Algonquian vowel systems fall into two basic contrastive types: (1) a place-based system found in Proto-Algonquian, the Central languages, and Blackfoot, and (2) a height-based system found in the Eastern languages, Cheyenne, and Arapaho-Atsina. Two striking but apparently unnoticed pan-Algonquian generalizations correspond with these contrastive types. The first generalization involves the merger of /e/, which has occurred in several Algonquian languages. In all languages with the place-based system,
/e/ merges with /i/, while in all languages with the height-based system, /e/ merges with /a/. The second generalization involves the development of innovative palatalization processes. In languages with the place-based system, palatalization always includes /i/ as a trigger, while languages with the height-based system repeatedly develop palatalization processes that are triggered by /e/ but not by /i/ (a typological oddity).  I will show how the contrastive model of phonological change attributes both of these correspondences to a common source, thus giving us a new insight into the underlying phonological structure of Algonquian.

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