Begus (2016) – Post-Nasal Devoicing and a Probabilistic Model of Phonological Typology

Post-Nasal Devoicing and a Probabilistic Model of Phonological Typology
Gasper Begus
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December 2016
This paper addresses one of the most contested issues in phonology: the derivation of phonological typology. I present a new model for deriving phonological typology within the channel bias approach. First, a new subdivision of natural processes is proposed: non-natural processes are divided into unmotivated and unnatural. The central topic of the paper is an unnatural alternation: post-nasal devoicing (PND). I argue that in all reported cases, PND does not derive from a single unnatural sound change (as claimed in some individual accounts of the data), but rather from a combination of three sound changes, each of which is natural and motivated. By showing that one of the rare cases of unnatural sound change reported actually arises through a combination of natural sound changes, we can maintain the long-held position that any single instance of sound change has to be natural. Based on several discussed cases, I propose a new historical model for explaining unnatural phenomena: the “blurring process”. Additionally, I provide a proof establishing the minimal sound changes required (MSCR) for an unmotivated/unnatural process to arise. The blurring process and MSCR result in a model that probabilistically predicts typology within the channel bias approach. This paper also presents groundwork for calculating historical probabilities of synchronic alternations with the ultimate goal of quantifying influences of CB on phonological typology.

Format: pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/003232
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: Submitted
keywords: phonological typology, probabilistic models, sound change, naturalness, channel bias, voice, phonology