Saturday, May 15, 2010

Notes on using LateX

Packages can be downloaded from the CTAN site:

The ¥usepackage{...} command must be placed in the preamble. This commands LateX to use the commands defined in the .sty file package. If the file is not found, the message '_.sty' not found will appear.

Downloaded .sty files can be placed into the same folder as the LateX source file or they can go into the share/texmf/-local/tex/latex folder.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

More Adventures in Phonology (Part II)

It's time for another exciting edition of More Adventures in Phonology!

In our class today we analyzed the problem of stress distribution in Southern Paiute. This problem can be found on p. 181 of Halle's Problem Book in Phonology. A set of 24 nonsense words with various stress patterns are given, and in question 2 one is asked to give a formal statement to account for these patterns.

Once again I found myself completely disagreeing with the analysis of my teacher (and presumably most everyone else in the class)! If I've learned one thing from this class, it's that I tend to approach phonology issues in a very different way.

The analysis given by my teacher can be summarized as follows:

(1) Final syllables are to be considered extra-metrical
(2) Trees are constructed from left to right and have two layers if the word has both primary and secondary stress
(3) Lower layers are right-headed while higher layers are left-headed

So, no. 8 paáppàA is analyzed as follows:

** *
\/ |

I immediately objected to such an analysis as it requires the head to be located on the right in the lower layer and on the left in the upper layer. Such an ad hoc assignment is not allowed in syntax, as far as I am aware--you can't start off with a head on the right and then change mid-course to the left.

I presume that my teacher opted for such an analysis as it allows disyllablic words (no.1 páwA, no. 5 páppA) to be analyzed in a consistent fashion: the last syllable is extra-metrical and therefore stress naturally is assigned to the first syllable. This may be the only redeeming feature of such an analysis, but considering the inconsistencies in head assignment, I believe it should ultimately be rejected in favor of the following analysis:

(1) Except in disyllablic words, initial syllables are to be considered extra-metrical
(2) Trees are constructed from right to left and have two layers if the word has both primary and secondary stress
(3) Lower layers and higher layers are both left-headed

My analysis solves the problem of arbitrarily changing the position of the head. Some people in the class objected to my specification in (1) that disyllabic words are to be excepted from the extra-metrical rule, saying that setting such a limitation would be ad hoc. In other words, if we say that either final or initial syllables are extra-metrical, we have to apply this across-the-board to all forms, regardless of their syllable count.

However, such objections can be easily shown to have no basis. Many languages have a requirement that every word contain at least one foot (the well-known "minimal word syndrome"). If we assume that Southern Paiute also has such a constraint, this explains why disyllabic words cannot have an extra-metrical syllable--they would in fact become monomoraic and would therefore be degenerate-size words. Note that my teacher's analysis violates this constraint.

A look at p. 88 of Bruce Hayes' Metrical Stress Theory lists Southern Paiute as one of the languages subject to the "minimal word syndrome." Hayes also provides an analysis of Southern Paiute on p. 266, and he seems to take the word-final syllable as extra-metrical. He also allows for head position to be changed from layer-to-layer. So now I'm confused...head really doesn't mean head in the syntax sense of the term. It is simply a place holder to mark where stress is assigned.

If phonologists want to use syntax terms such as head, etc., they need to be a little more rigorous with their definitions. The analysis I gave above for Southern Paiute still seems to me to be entirely consistent, at least with regard to the data I was presented with.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

More Adventures in Phonology

Last month in our phonology class we analyzed the phenomenon of consonant dissimilation in Kikuyu (Gikuyu). This is the exercise given on p. 107 of Morris Halle's Problem Book in Phonology (1983).

The first part of the exercise is to determine the base form of the infinitive prefix, stating a rule that accounts for its pattern of alternation. The two alternating forms of the prefix are [ko] and [ɣo]. [ko] appears before a verbal root beginning with the [+cont] consonants {r, m, n, h} and the consonant [ɣ]. [ɣo] appears before a verbal root beginning with the [-cont] consonants {t, c, k} and the consonant [ð]. From the observance of other data (particularly that in part two), it is obvious that /ko/ is the base form while [ɣo] is the alternate. Therefore, we are dealing with something like the following preliminary rule for dissimilation:

/k/ → [ɣ] / __ V(V){t, c, k}V

/k/ also becomes [ɣ] before [ð]. What distinguishes [ð] from {t, c, k} above is that [ð] is [+cont, +voi]. From the data (for example the loanwords from English in part three), we see that Kikuyu has very few voiced consonants, and the consonant /g/ always undergoes spirantization, except when prenasalized. [ð] is a bit more difficult to analyze. We can note that fricatives in Kikuyu are always voiced. And the English loanwords in nos. 46 and 47 show that English [s] is pronounced as [ð] in Kikuyu. Thus an /s/, /d/, or even a /t/ could be the underlying representation for [ð].

From the dissimilation rule above, it appears that the wildcard [ð] should be analyzed as an underlying /t/, as this gives the rule a clearly-definable phonetic context. And as a voiced /g/ likely lies behind [ɣ], we can modify our dissimilation rule above and add a spirantization rule as follows:

(1) Voicing Dissimilation Rule

/k/ → [g] / __ V(V){t, c, k}V, where [t] = [t] or [ð]

(2) Spirantization Rule

C[-cont, +voi] → C[+cont]

Thus these ordered rules state that (1) in two consecutive [-cont, -voi] consonants, the first consonant is dissimilated with regard to voice, and (2) voiced consonants are spirantized in all environments except after nasals (post-nasal hardening).

Applied to the data, it looks like this:

/ko-geera/ /ko-taaka/
(1) ko-geera (1) go-taaka
(2) ko-ɣeera ( ) go-daaka
(2) ɣo-ðaaka

For the second step of the /ko-taaka/ form, the voicing of the /t/ appears to be due to some factor not specified. As no. 12 [ko-hetoka] shows, such voicing doesn't always occur. The forms that do have voicing, i.e., no. 10 [ɣo-ðaaka] and no. 20 [ɣo-ðɛka], show voicing of /t/ when it appears at the beginning of a verbal root. Such voicing could be the result of morphological or other phonetic factors such as accent or tone. I wish the author of this book would fill us in on what is going on here.

When I first wrestled with this problem, I had assumed the following dissimilation rule:

/k/ → [ɣ] / __ V(V){t, c, k, d}V

The rule states that dissimilation occurs only in [-cont] consonant sequences, omitting the [-voi] condition seen in the rule above. I also assumed that [ð] came from an underlying /d/. Note that the essence of this rule is not about voicing dissimilation, but about obstruent dissimilation.

The problem with this view is why a similar dissimilation process does not occur before [ɣ], which, parallel to /d/ → [ð], should be analyzed as coming from /g/. I had assumed that the underlying representation, in contrast to /d/, could be analyzed as /ɣ/. And since a dissimilation of /k/ to [ɣ] before a following /ɣ/ would by its very nature defeat the purpose of dissimilation (it would actually be a process of assimilation!), I considered /k/ to be exempt from the dissimilation rule in such cases:

(1) Not Applicable

The problem with this analysis is that it fails to give a unified account for the ordering of our Dissimilation Rule (1) and our Spirantization Rule (2). For if we assume /ko-ɣeera/ for the underlying representation as above, and not /ko-geera/, we contradict ourselves by setting up at the same time the underlying form /ko-daaka/. We could say that spirantization of voiced consonants occurred at different stages for /d/ and /g/, but that would be ad hoc. The merit of our first analysis is that consistently unspirantized forms can be set up in the underlying representation and spirantization is assumed to occur at one step in the process. See the forms below:

/ko-daaka/ /ko-geera/
(1) ɣo-daaka (1) *ɣo-geera
(2) ɣo-ðaaka (2) *ɣo-ɣeera

In this analysis, dissimilation in stage (1) already generates spirantization for /g/. It is strange then to postulate another spirantization rule in stage (2). The merit of this approach, though, is that we don't have to assume anything for the changes in [ɣoðaaka] and [ɣoðɛka], but this is outweighed by the other problems with such an analysis.

A search on the internet reveals that this process of dissimilation in Kikukyu has been defined as Dahl's Law, which states that the first of two voiceless consonants will be dissimilated to its voiced version in certain contexts.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Digital Data and Japanese Language Research

I listened to this lecture by Tanomura last weekend. He stressed the importance of using a large corpus for studying linguistic phenomena, as a large sampling of data allows us to see patterns in language change more accurately. A corpus is also useful for seeing patterns in collocations. Search engines are not suitable for use as corpora, because the results they give are too variable.



Friday, July 10, 2009

Rotuman and Phonology

In a recent class, our task was to analyze the Austronesian language Rotuman. The purpose of this task was to familiarize ourselves with using distinctive features to analyze processes of neutralization. The handout our teacher gave us clearly stated that the vowel system of Rotuman is complex and that there may be more than one way to analyze a particular case of neutralization.

I devoted a lot of time and thought to my analysis and was sure that I had come up with good arguments to support my approach. I was therefore surprised to find that my teacher had approached the problem in a very different (and in my opinion, erroneous) way. During the class, I attempted to make a case for my method of analysis, but unfortunately I don't think it got across very well. Later reflection still has me convinced that my approach is superior, and I will try to explain why here.

We were given a list of 92 words from Rotuman, each with a phonetic transcription and a gloss. The vowels and their environments can be summarized as follows:

(1) Ten different vowels appear in closed syllables
(2) Five different vowels appear word-finally
(3) In a disyllabic word with the structure CVCV, a total seven different vowels appear for the first vowel, and their qualities depend on the quality of the second vowel

My teacher started his analysis with the ten vowels in (1), setting them all up as phonemes. He then went on to describe a process of neutralization for the five vowels in word-final position. In other words, he started with the ten vowels in (1) and then narrowed them down to the five vowels in (2) by explaining this as the result of neutralization. He then went on to explain the seven vowels in (3) through neutralization, where the two "extra" vowels are explained as contextual variants.

The first major flaw in this analysis is that it completely ignores the distinction between the phonemic and the phonetic. Previously in the class, we had been practicing standard approaches to phonological analysis, using concepts such as the phonemic/phonetic distinction, complementary distribution, allophones, etc. However, it seems that my teacher failed to take these approaches into account when analyzing using a system of distinctive features. I questioned him on this point, asking how we should distinguish phonemes from phones when using a distinctive-feature-based approach. He replied that (and maybe this was just for the sake of practice) we take all the sounds in the phonetic transcription to be phonemes! This is what I think makes his analysis flawed. Consider the definition of neutralization:

Neutralization: the identical phonetic realization of distinct phonemes.

Notice that the very definition of neutralization presupposes that we make the phonemic/phonetic distinction. Regardless of whether we use distinctive features or not, we must make this distinction. If we accept that all phonetic realizations are also phonemic we will have no way of knowing what a speaker's phonemic knowledge entails.

The advantages to using distinctive features are that they allow us to predict speakers' choices beyond the specific data given, and that they allow us to describe with accuracy exactly what is being neutralized when neutralization occurs.

The moral of this story, which I think was lost on most of the students, is that using distinctive features can add to the power of our analysis once we have determined the phonemic inventory of a language and described common allophones, etc. In other words, the methods of the Prague School and "standard" Structuralism aren't mutually exclusive.

In my analysis, I started with the five word-final vowels as phonemes and described other variants as allophones (contextual variants). In a word with the structure CVCV, certain distinctive features for the first vowel are neutralized by the features of the second vowel. In closed syllables, the ten vowels that can appear there undergo some kind of conditioning (I later found out this was metathesis).

One objection that was raised to my approach was that if we started with five vowels, we would have to assume an increased number of contextual variants in closed syllables. But this is the normal state of affairs! It is natural that there will always be many many more phones than phonemes in a particular language.

After completing my analysis, I checked for some information on Rotuman, and it showed that indeed there are a total of five vowel phonemes in the language and that the reason for the variety of vowels in closed syllables results from the effects of vowel sandhi after metathesis. Thus the validity of my argument has been confirmed. Why did it have to be so difficult?!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Today's Rig Veda (RV 7.71.6)

RV 7.71.6

iy'am manīṣ'ā, iy'am aśvinā g'īr

im'āṁ suvṛkt'iṃ, vṛṣaṇā juṣethām
im'ā br'ahmāṇi, yuvay'ūn(i)y agman
yūy'am pāta, s(u)vast'ibhiḥ s'adā naḥ

--This fervent [poetic] meditation, O Aśvins, this song--
Delight in this fine stanza, O bulls!
These poetic formulations, longing for you, have gone,
Protect us always with safe returns home!

Dies Gedicht, diese Lobrede (ist für euch), ihr Asvin. Erfreuet euch an diesem Lobpreis, ihr Bullen! Diese feierlichen Worte sind ausgezogen nach euch verlangend. - Behütet ihr uns immerdar mit eurem Segen!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Pindaros Pythionikai 8.95-97

ἐπάμεροι: τί δέ τις; τί δ᾽ οὔ τις; σκιᾶς ὄναρ
ἄνθρωπος. ἀλλ᾽ ὅταν αἴγλα διόσδοτος ἔλθῃ,
λαμπρὸν φέγγος ἔπεστιν ἀνδρῶν καὶ μείλιχος αἰών