Publishing Partner: Cambridge University Press CUP Extra Publisher Login
amazon logo
More Info


New from Oxford University Press!

ad

Words Onscreen

By Naomi S. Baron

Words Onscreen "explores how technology is reshaping our understanding of what it means to read."


New from Cambridge University Press!

ad

Communication Accommodation Theory

Edited by Howard Giles

Most people modify their ways of speaking, writing, texting, and e-mailing, and so on, according to the people with whom they are communicating. This fascinating book asks why we 'accommodate' to others in this way, and explores the various social consequences arising from it.


Academic Paper


Title: Testing claims of a usage-based phonology with Liverpool English t-to-r
Linguistic Field: Cognitive Science; Historical Linguistics; Phonology; Sociolinguistics
Subject Language: English
Abstract: The variable phenomenon in which /t/ can be realized as a tap or rhotic approximant in varieties of Northern British English (commonly referred to as t-to-r, Wells 1982: 370) has received some attention in English linguistics as debates have appeared over how best to model its phonology (e.g. Carr 1991; Docherty et al. 1997; Broadbent 2008). The occurrence of t-to-r seems to be constrained by the preceding and following phonological environment in a largely systematic way and so it is often accounted for within a rule-based model of grammar. Problematically, however, the rule does not apply blindly across the board to all words which fit the specified phonological pattern. Instead, t-to-r shows evidence of being lexically restricted, and this fact has recently encouraged a usage-based interpretation. Until now, there has been relatively little attempt to test the usage-based thesis directly with fully quantified data gleaned from naturally occurring conversation. This article investigates the extent to which certain usage-based predictions can account for variation attested in t-to-r in Liverpool English. Using oral history interviews with Liverpool English speakers born in the early 1900s, we examine the usage-based predictions first proposed by Broadbent (2008) that t-to-r is more likely in (a) high-frequency words and (b) high-frequency phrases. There is some support for the importance of lexical frequency as a motivating factor in the use of t-to-r, but our data do not fully support either of these claims wholesale. We suggest that t-to-r is not constrained simply by word frequency or phrase frequency alone, but by a combination of both. Finally, we explore the possibility of employing notions from Cognitive Grammar such as schema strength (e.g. Taylor 2002; Bybee 1995: 430) in our interpretation of these data.

CUP AT LINGUIST

This article appears IN English Language and Linguistics Vol. 15, Issue 3, which you can READ on Cambridge's site.

Return to TOC.

Add a new paper
Return to Academic Papers main page
Return to Directory of Linguists main page