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Keren Rice: “On the phonological status of substantive features: evidence from categorization and predictability”

Keren Rice, University of Toronto

Keren Rice of the University of Toronto will present “On the phonological status of substantive features: evidence from categorization and predictability” in the GLSA colloquium series on Friday Nov. 3 in ILC N400. All are welcome! An abstract is below:

Abstract. There has long been debate about the role of substance in phonology, with controversy about whether features are innate or emergent, and whether phonological substantive markedness hierarchies exist. In this paper, I address this debate, considering two issues. While in general there has been a move in linguistics to reduce what is considered to be innate (e.g., Mielke 2008), recent work on features (Duanmu 2016) and on markedness (de Lacy 2006, de Lacy and Kingston 2013), among others, asserts the need for substantive universals in phonology, with both features and markedness hierarchies being universal. I examine their arguments from an empirical perspective, concluding that one reason that universal substantive features are proposed is to address what I call the categorization problem, but such features introduce problems in terms of phonological activity. Second, I address what I call the predictability problem, arguing that universal phonological substantive markedness hierarchies are empirically inadequate. I outline a model of phonology that incorporates general concepts such contrast, categorization, asymmetries, activity, and complexity, stressing the importance of an important aspect of language, phonological activity.