A Functional-Load Account of Geminate Contrastiveness: a Meta-Study

Project Summary:

Phonetic studies of geminates do not typically address the question of what motivates the fine-grained linguistically-relevant variation, particularly along the primary acoustic correlate of a singleton-geminate contrast, constriction duration (Kawahara, 2015). In the present study we argue that a major factor contributing to the variation is the measure Functional Load (henceforth FL) (Hockett, 1955), by examining multiple languages (Cypriot Greek, Italian and Hindi). The study presents new evidence consistent with the variationist/usage-based/evolutionary models (VUE) (Blevins & Wedel, 2009), showing that simple measures of functional load can not only predict fine-grained phonetic differences between members of phonemic contrasts, both across and within natural classes, but also even suggest possible mergers in progress. We provide a proof-of-concept that FL, computed from a less-than-ideal corpus such as a word list, is sufficient for predicting fine-grained differences between phonemic contrasts.

Read more from:

Kevin Tang & John Harris. In prep. A functional-load account of geminate contrastiveness: a meta-study.
Kevin Tang & John Harris. September, 2014. A functional load account of geminate contrastiveness: a meta-study. Annual Meeting of the Linguistics Association of Great Britain, University of Oxford, UK. [abstract] [slides]

Cypriot Greek
(Geminate:Non-Geminate Ratio by Function Load)

(Geminate:Non-Geminate Ratio by Function Load)