Epenthetic vowel quality in loanwords: empirical and formal issues

Uffmann, Christian (2006) Epenthetic vowel quality in loanwords: empirical and formal issues. Lingua, 116 (7). pp. 1079-1111. ISSN 0024-3841

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Abstract

This paper discusses vowel epenthesis in loanwords from both an empirical and a formal linguistic perspective and argues that epenthesis patterns are more complex than usually assumed with respect to vowel quality. A statistical analysis of several large loanword corpora in the languages Shona, Sranan, Samoan and Kinyarwanda reveals that the quality of the epenthetic vowel results from the complex interaction of three distinct processes, vowel harmony, local assimilation to the preceding consonant and default insertion. Claims that a default (unmarked or perceptually least salient) vowel is usually inserted are thus challenged. The results of the statistical exploration of loanword corpora are formalized in an Optimality-Theoretic approach which makes crucial reference to autosegmental representations. The relative ranking of constraints against feature insertion and against spreading decide over the preferred strategy in a language. These constraints are scalar, accounting for the preference of different strategies in different environments, and grounded in universal markedness and prominence hierarchies, thus formalizing the observation that across corpora, certain types of spreading are preferred while others are dispreferred. The role of perception is argued to play only a minor role in vowel epenthesis, given the high amount of variation both across and within languages which is not sufficiently explained by notions of salience or perceptibility alone

Item Type: Article
Schools and Departments: School of English > English
Subjects: P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
Depositing User: Christian Uffmann
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 21:14
Last Modified: 11 Jul 2012 14:17
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/30436
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