The Berkeley Phonetics & Phonology Forum (Phorum) is a weekly talk and discussion series featuring presentations on all aspects of phonology and phonetics.


Mondays 11 - 12
Phonology Lab
50 Dwinelle


Emily Cibelli

Gregory Finley

Berkeley Phonetics and Phonology Forum

Schedule of Talks for Spring 2012


January 30 -

Wendell Kimper
UC Santa Cruz

Variability, cumulativity, and trigger asymmetries in Finnish

The native phonology of Finnish exhibits a regular and well-described system of vowel harmony along the front/back dimension --- with the exception of neutral [i] and [e], front and back vowels may not co-occur within roots, and suffixes alternate to take on the backness value of the preceding root. In loanwords, however, front and back vowels are permitted to co-occur. Suffixes attached to these disharmonic roots display variable behavior --- following a [back]-[front] sequence, harmony can either be transparent (skipping the intervening front vowel) or opaque (blocked from reaching the suffix).

In this talk, I argue that the choice between transparency and opacity is best characterized as a competition between potential harmony triggers. I present the results of a nonce-word study on Finnish disharmonic loans, showing that non-high vowels are (a) less likely than their high counterparts to be transparent, and (b) more likely than their high counterparts to induce transparent harmony. This asymmetry is consistent with the cross-linguistic generalization that segments which are perceptually impoverished with respect to a feature contrast tend to be preferential triggers for harmony along that dimension. I analyze these results within the framework of (Serial) Harmonic Grammar, proposing a harmony constraint which (a) assigns rewards for spreading (rather than violations for disharmony) and (b) scales those rewards up or down as a function of the preferential status of the harmony trigger as well as the distance between trigger and target.

February 27 -

Otelemate Harry and Larry Hyman
University of the West Indies, Mona; UC Berkeley

Construction Tonology: The Case of Kalabari

* Please note that this meeting is from 12 - 1 PM. *

Although it is common for tone to be assigned by (word-level) morphological constructions, it is far less common for tones to be assigned by (phrase-level) syntactic constructions. Kalabari, an Ijoid language of Nigeria, does exactly this: Within the DP, the N appears finally, followed only by a possible definite article. Whenever the N is non-initial, it loses its tones and receives different "melodies" depending on the word class of the preceding modifier or possessor-which may be a demonstrative, possessive pronoun, noun possessor, or numeral. (Adjectives allow the following noun tone to surface.) DPs which have greater structural complexity may follow the pattern of the first word or, in some cases, show sensitivity to the internal structure. In this talk we first provide a synchronic overview of the patterns and then discuss how such an unusual system might have come into being, diachronically.

March 5 -

Armin Mester
UC Santa Cruz

Non-prominent positions
download PDF abstract

March 12 -

Larry Hyman
UC Berkeley

Issues in the Morphology-Phonology Interface in African Languages

In this paper I address how morphology and phonology potentially affect each other in a grammar. Drawing from a number of African languages, I briefly provide a typological overview of the types of morphology-phonology interfaces for which African languages are well known, including morphologically conditioned P-rules, phonologically conditioned allomorphy, and prosodic morphology (templates, reduplication). I then turn to consider the most diverse and extensive morphology-phonology interface in sub-saharan African: tonal morphology. After distinguishing different types of tonal morphology, I focus on cases which are particularly unusual, specifically tonal morphology which extends beyond the lexical word. This will naturally lead to a discussion of what should be considered "morphology" vs. something else. I will show that tonal morphology can do anything that non-tonal morphology can do, but that the reverse is not true: There are morphological phenomena that appear limited to tone. While emphasis will be on the phenomena rather than on formal implementation, the implications (and potential difficulties) these facts present for formal modeling will be apparent.

March 19 -

Matt Faytak
UC Berkeley

Sonority islands and the canonical sonority scale

Syllabic nuclei are licensed from language to language at widely varying levels of sonority. An emergent property of syllabification as it is canonically described is that syllabic segments occupy a single, unbroken range of sonority levels, with no segment barred from syllabicity that is more sonorous than a given language's least sonorous syllabic segment (Blevins 1995). In this talk, I introduce languages which diverge from this canonical pattern: they allow fricatives as syllabic nuclei despite barring syllabification of rhotics, liquids, or nasals, which should be more sonorous than fricatives in a phonetically-grounded sonority scale. I refer to these discontinuous areas of sufficient sonority as "sonority islands." I attempt two explanations of sonority islands: the first, with analogues to existing phonological literature, is that syllabification in these unusual languages works along a "logical scale"--following Mortensen (2006), a scale that does not reference phonetic substance in being compiled--rather than a substantive, phonetically-derived scale. Justification for this approach can be found in the historical relationship between vowel-like fricatives and vowels proper: the former are overwhelmingly derivable from high vowels. This amounts to equating vowel-like fricatives in sonority islands with vowels. Formally identifying fricatives in sonority islands as vowels at some level of abstraction is adequate, but it is unsatisfying in that it discards phonological distinctions between the two classes. I review these distinctions and conclude by presenting a second explanation that is not necessarily mututally exclusive with the first: the characteristic turbulence of fricatives may explain their behavior as "sonority islands," both in the sense that turbulence is frequently exploited as salience in unusual attested scales (e.g. Nuxalk) but also feasibly allows for a language to maintain the logical scalar relationship between two classes of segments in a relatively substantive manner.

April 2 -

Stephanie Farmer, Lev Michael, John Sylak
UC Berkeley

Nasal Consonant Harmony in Máíhɨki

In this talk we present an analysis of nasal harmony in Máíhɨki, a Western Tukanoan language, and arɡue that nasal harmony in this language is best analyzed as nasal consonant harmony, and not as the more common phenomenon of nasal spreading, or 'nasalization harmony' (Hansson 2001). Nasalization harmony characteristically affects all segments that fall within its span (as defined by the nasalization trigger and opaque segments, or other relevant boundaries), while nasal consonant harmony does not result in the nasalization of vowels separating the trigger and target consonant(s).

The Tukanoan languages (particularly those of the Eastern branch) figure prominently in the theoretical literature on nasal harmony (e.g. Boersma 2000, Piggot and van der Hulst 1997, Walker 1998), since they exhibit extensive nasal spreadinɡ. In general, nasalization in Tukanoan languages is characterized as a morpheme-level feature that spreads from left-to-right within a morpheme, with generally a very small number of opaque segments, though details vary from language to language. Although some Bantu languages demonstrate nasal consonant harmony (e.g. Yaka; Hyman 1995), no Tukanoan languages have been identified as doing so.

We argue that nasality is a morpheme-level feature in Máíhɨki, as in other Tukanoan languages, and that it preferentially docks to the leftmost nasalization targets (/b/, /d/, or /j/) in the the morpheme. When these segments nasalize to /m/, /n/, or /ɲ/, respectively, they serve as nasalization triɡɡers for the nasalization targets to the right in the same morpheme. Voiceless consonants and /g/ (< *k) are not targets for nasalization, and the nasal consonant harmony process leaves vowels intervening between the trigger and target(s) unaffected. The sole instance in which vowels nasalize is when no target consonants are available in a morpheme, in which case the leftmost vowel in the morpheme is nasalized (e.g. [tãke] 'monkey sp.').

We devote particular attention to phonetic evidence regarding vowel nasalization, since we argue that previous descriptions of nasality in the language (e.g. Velie 1976) have incorrectly characterized vowels between nasalization triggers and targets as nasalized.

April 9 -

Keith Johnson, Greg Finley, Shinae Kang, Carson Miller
UC Berkeley

Factors mediating consonant perception: A report from the phonology lab

In this hour we will present some of the speech perception work that we have been conducting in the phonology lab this year. Recent experiments have tested compensation for rounding coarticulation as mediated by linguistic experience (in this case, native language) and by visual perception. We will present preliminary results of these experiments: French listeners show more consistent interpretation of the rounding on the high front vowel /y/ than English-speaking listeners; and listeners consider visual lip-rounding cues in determining degree of roundedness, although this is stronger for some vowels than others. We will also discuss several new questions, hypotheses, and difficulties that have arisen from these experiments.

April 16 -

Judith Kroll
Pennsylvania State University

Cross-language competition begins during speech planning but extends into bilingual speech

Recent bilingual studies have shown that both languages are engaged when only a single language is required. Critically, cross-language activation occurs in tasks that are highly skilled, such as listening, reading, and speaking. However, bilinguals do not ordinarily suffer the consequences of cross-language interference, suggesting that they possess a mechanism of cognitive control that allows them to effectively select the language they intend to use. I will present data from three studies that use acoustic measures to demonstrate that not only are both languages active during the earliest stages of planning, but that cross-language activity extends into the execution of the speech plan.

April 23 -

Darya Kavitskaya
UC Berkeley

Vowels and vocalic processes in Crimean Tatar

In this talk, I will present my fieldwork on Crimean Tatar, an understudied West Kipchak language of the Turkic language family (Bogoroditskii 1933; Kavitskaya 2010). Crimean Tatar is spoken mainly in the Crimean peninsula, Ukraine, and in Uzbekistan. Traditionally, Crimean Tatar is subdivided into three dialects, Southern, Central, and Northern (Berta 1998). The Central dialect is now used as the standard variety of Crimean Tatar, while the number of speakers of the other two dialects is rapidly diminishing.

I will first discuss the sociolinguistic and dialectological situation of Crimean Tatar and then concentrate on two issues in Crimean Tatar phonology: the phonological representation of high vowels and the opaque interaction of vowel harmony, palatalization, and syncope.

April 30 -

Arto Anttila
Stanford University

Quantity alternations in Dagaare*

Dagaare (Gur, Niger-Congo) is a tone language and there is little direct evidence for stress. In this talk, I develop the view that a number of vowel shortening and lengthening processes in Dagaare are best understood in metrical terms as consequences of a word-initial moraic trochee (Anttila and Bodomo 2009).

*This talk is based on joint work with Adams Bodomo of the University of Hong Kong