How do you pronounce biopic, synod, and Breughel? - and why? Do our cake and archaic sound the same? Where does the stress go in stalagmite? What's odd about the word epergne? As a finale, the author writes a letter to his 16-year-old self.
EDITORS: John A. Goldsmith, Elizabeth Hume and Leo Wetzels TITLE: Tones and Features SUBTITLE: Phonetic and Phonological Perspectives SERIES: Studies in Generative Grammar PUBLISHER: De Gruyter Mouton YEAR: 2011
Seetha Jayaraman, Dhofar University, Sultanate of Oman.
“Tones and Features - Phonetic and Phonological Perspectives” is a collection of papers as a part of the series “Studies in Generative Grammar”. The contributions were presented at a conference at the University of Chicago’s Paris Center in June 2009, which was organized in honor of Nick Clements.
In the preface, the editors recall and appreciate the contributions made by Clements to phonology and phonological theories, most of which are based on the study of African languages. Clements was instrumental in developing views on features, feature geometry, sonority and syllabification.
The editors also discuss phonological systems, raising the question of whether tone is different from phonological features. Addressing this question is the key element in three of the five papers of Part I of the book, which is based on phonological theories on African languages.
The volume has 14 papers and is divided in two parts. Each paper is followed by an extensive list of references and explanatory notes.
The first part of the book, “The representation and nature of tone”, deals with tone systems and tonal contrasts (lexical versus phonological), and has five papers on different aspects of tone.
The first paper, “Do we need tone features?”, by G. N. Clements, Alexis Michaud and Cédric Patin, reviews and analyzes the criteria commonly used in feature analysis in segmental phonology in 1967. With the introduction of Autosegmental Phonology in 1976, tonal features began to be treated as significant in defining specific phonological features. This paper examines the need for tone features, as well as their functions in level tones, contour tones, and register, by drawing on examples from Asian and African languages. The study concludes that tonal features do not serve the same functions as segmental features.
The second paper, “Rhythm, quantity and tone in the Kinyarwanda verb”, by John Goldsmith and Fidèle Mpiranya, focuses on the complex nature of tone assignment, while keeping it distinct from other aspects of phonology (i.e. assignment deals with the point of realization used on a global metrical structure, based on the word as a whole). The study is based on the tonal system of Kinyarwanda verbs and demonstrates that rhythmic positions vary with tonal assignment of the verbal system in some languages, a phenomenon that is comparable to stress assignment.
In the third paper, “Do tones have features?”, Larry M. Hyman addresses three questions: (1) Why isn’t tone universal?; (2) Is tone different?; and (3) Do tones have features?. Hyman believes that feature analysis is not necessary and suggests that tone features are useful and that their existence “….is not compelling because of their greater autonomy and unreliable intersection with each other and other features” (54).
The fourth paper, “Features impinging on tone”, by David Odden, is an account of motivating tonal features. The focus is on the types of evidence for the existence of and motivation for certain features. For example, the interaction between consonant voicing and tone, and a register feature called [upper] that divides tone spaces into upper and lower registers. For example, the interaction between consonant voicing and tone, and a register feature called [upper], divides tone spaces into upper and lower registers. Another example is the feature [raised], which subdivides registers into higher and lower internal levels. Such phenomena explain the phonological alternation and the physically discontinuous assimilation of the feature [+round] in Anlo we (Clements, 1978). A similar example is drawn from Kikamba, where the 4 level tonal space is divided by a distinction between high and low tones, which are further differentiated by being [plain] versus [extreme] outside of the tonal space. Another example is drawn from Kikamba, where the 4 level tonal space is divided by a distinction between high and low tones, which are further differentiated by being [plain] versus [extreme] outside of the tonal space. Odden opines that tonal features are learned based on phonological patterns and not along with the physical properties of sounds. The investigation, drawing on samples from the Adamawa language called Tupuri, shows that voicing, like vowel height, is a feature relevant to synchronic tonal phonology.
The fifth paper, “Downstep and linguistic scaling in Dagara-Wulé”, by Annie Rialland and Penou-Achille Somé, is a description of the relationship between linguistic scaling in Dagara-Wulé (an African tone language), and musical scaling, based on the downstep sequences in the eighteen key scale of a xylophone. Downstep is studied in many languages, and is generally analyzed through musical terms such as intervals, register, and key-lowering. The study shows that both kinds of scaling share the similar property of equal steps, which is explicable via ‘semitones’.
The second part of the book, “The representation and nature of phonological features”, consists of nine papers related to phonological features in different languages, which differ due to variation in laryngeal features like voicing, and also due to differences arising out of individual sound segments. The investigations are in the framework of theories based on acoustic and perceptual properties. Speech is analyzed as a set of distinctly observable (phonemes) features, which can be broken up into phonological features. The individual phonological features combine to make the phoneme system and create a systematic pattern of sounds which can be studied both diachronically and synchronically. Phonological features establish a sound and meaning inter-relationship by their associated physiological and anatomical composition in speakers.
The first paper in this part, “Crossing the quantal boundaries of features: Subglottal resonances and Swabian diphthongs”, by Grzegorz Dogil, Steven M. Lulich, Andreas Madsack, and Wolfgang Wokurek, is a description of features based on Stevens’(1972) quantal model of features. The study discusses the role of subglottal resonances in the production and perception of the Swabian dialect of German, with special reference to two diphthongs and spectrographic evidence of data from 12 speakers of German. The results show that movements of formants lead to subglottal regional crossing in the case of one of the two diphthongs studied. In other words, F2 frequency relates to the subglottal point at or near the beginning of the diphthong. Earlier findings of the difference between the two diphthongs were temporal (Geumann, 1997; Hiller, 2003). This study shows that both spectral and temporal cues independently contribute to the contrast and concludes that tone is different than segments because of its greater diversity and autonomy.
The second paper, “Voice assimilation in French obstruents: Categorical or gradient?”, by Pierre A. Hallé and Martine Adda-Decker, is an investigation of voicing assimilation in French consonant clusters, using a corpus of French radio and television speech. The paper looks at categoricity versus gradiency in natural assimilation. By categorical definition, in discrete accounts of voicing assimilation, there are two phonetic categories, voiced and voiceless. The voicing assimilation process is a switch from one category to the other. By a gradient account, assimilation is viewed as phonetic shift of one of the two categories. It is hypothesized that glottal pulsing is the main cue to obstruent voicing. Word-final and word-initial obstruents are quantified using duration, and the v-ratio (i.e. voiced portion) within consonants is computed and analyzed in terms of v-ratio distribution versus a theoretical hypothesis on assimilation. V-ratio is the proportion of voicing relative to total duration of an obstruent (e.g. in “trouvent que” and “avec des”). The paper concludes that, compared to other acoustic parameters, voicing assimilation as a single feature operation, [voice], affects the process the most. Other cues appear less affected. In other words, voicing assimilation in French consonant clusters may be complete or partial.
The third paper, “An acoustic study of the Korean fricatives /s, s′/: Implications for the features [spread glottis] and [tense]”, by Hyunsoon Kim and Chae-Lim Park, explores the distinction between the two fricatives /s/ and / s′/ in phonetic terms and examines whether laryngeal characterizations of these fricatives --frication, aspiration, fundamental frequency and voicing-- are also acoustically supported. The most striking feature differentiating the two fricative sounds is the duration of frication. The study observes that the duration of frication is longer in /s′/ than in /s/, and that aspiration occurs during the transition between a fricative and a following vowel, regardless of the phonation type of fricatives.
The next paper, “Autosegmental spreading in Optimality Theory”, by John J. McCarthy, reports the results of a study on vowel harmony within the framework of Optimality Theory (OT). The study proposes Serial Harmony (SH), which is parallel to OT and deals with specific constraints that favor ‘autosegmental spreading’ and a derivational ‘Harmonic Serialism’(HS) system for the phonological processes concerned. HS is a version of OT, in which the feature GEN (Generic) is limited to making one change at a time. Finally, McCarthy argues that theories based on OT make incorrect typological predictions that SH does not.
The fifth paper in this part, “Evaluating the effectiveness of Unified Feature Theory and three other feature systems”, by Jeff Mielke, Lyra Mogloughlin, and Elizabeth Hume, compares six different theories in describing natural and unnatural classes of sounds: (1) Preliminaries to the Analysis of Speech (Jakobson, Fant, and Halle 1952); (2) The Sound Pattern of English (Chomsky and Halle 1968); (3) Problem Book in Phonology (Hall and Clements 1983); (4) Unified Feature Theory (UFT, Clements and Hume 1995); (5) Unified Feature Theory with binary place features; and (6) Unified Feature Theory with full specification of all features. The study claims that “UFT is distinct from the other theories in its use of privative features and its emphasis on feature organization” (224). It is observed that the UFT of Clements and Hume (1995), in terms of binary place features, is more efficient than the other theories in classifying sounds of phonologically active classes in world languages, which can be accounted for by a small set of distinctive features.
The sixth paper, “Language-independent bases of distinctive features”, by Rachid Ridouane, G. N. Clements and Rajesh Khatiwada, is based on the theory of distinctive features of speech sounds measurable by their acoustic parameters. The aim of the investigation is to show that existing distinctive features are not phonetically inadequate for phonological purposes. Hence, acoustic features as measured are universal and language independent. The study attempts to explain the feature [spread glottis] and to define the feature in articulatory and acoustic terms.
The seventh paper, “Representation of complex segments in Bulgarian”, by Jerzy Rubach, addresses the question of treating palatalized and velarized consonants as simplex (i.e. involving a single articulator) or complex (i.e. involving two articulators) segments, using both their primary and secondary articulatory characteristics. The paper studies data from Bulgarian along three geometric theories: ‘Articulator Theory’; ‘Unified Feature Theory’; and ‘Modified Articulator Theory’. The study finds that palatalization and velarization of coronals and labials are treated as secondary articulation and are dealt with as complex segments.
The eighth paper in this section, “Proposals for a representation of sounds based on their main acoustic-perceptual properties”, by Jacqueline Vaissière, deals with five ‘reference’ vowels and the system of defining them, as relating to the articulatory and acoustic explanations proposed by Stevens’ (1972) ‘Quantal Model of Distinctive Features’. The study’s author discusses the preference of explaining phonetic features using notation along the lines of Stevens’(1989) theory over Jones’(1918) articulatory system of describing cardinal vowels.
The last paper of the volume, “The representation of vowel features and vowel neutralization in Brazilian Portuguese (southern dialects)”, by W. Leo Wetzels, is a detailed discussion of the functional features of mid vowels, which are considered along a gradient scale in the 4-height vowel system in Brazilian Portuguese (BP) (along with their corresponding glides). It is observed that there is a tendency to move from a 7-vowel system to a 5-vowel system in BP. Wetzels considers the link between vowel neutralization and a contrastive glottal aperture tire (a phonotactic feature) through a process of marked-unmarked feature substitution, which is context-dependent. The five vowels are represented by /i, u, a, έ and ό/, where the latter two are created by assimilatory neutralization.
The book provides useful insights into phonetic and phonological perspectives of language research, including the basics of data collection, methods of recording, and selecting equipment. The issues discussed range from complex phonological details of articulatory features and acoustic parameters, on the one hand, to tonal features related to morphological structures on the other. The collection is a valuable tool of individual resources for anyone interested in an in-depth study of various phonetic and phonological theories, along with their assumptions and interpretation. The exhaustive treatment of the underlying forms of features with special reference to certain African languages, both in terms of tones and features, makes the book an important contribution to the field of phonology.
Hyman’s account of tones, which links them to morphological features, and Odden’s article on features of voicing and vowel height that influence tone, inspire us to further explore other features. Relating tonal languages with music in terms of downstep, and comparing linguistic scaling with musical scaling, is fascinating. Earlier works have worked on F0 as the basis of comparison between the two fields. Mielke’s comparison of six systems with the most frequent combination of phonologically active classes (p. 231) and evaluation of UFT as the most effective system is compelling and convincing. This is because UFT can account for the smallest of distinctive features to describe sound patterns, modifying the original explanation of natural classes. The article on representation of vowel height and vowel neutralization is yet another interesting article on vowel height and syllable structure. What makes the article interesting is the discussion of the 7-vowel system in relation to syllable stress, showing a contrast between upper and lower mid vowels in Brazilian Portuguese. Apart from defining the contrast among mid vowels with degrees of aperture, it argues against vowel neutralization being dissociated from the tier defining contrast. In sum, the volume illustrates the inter-relatability of features remarkably well and is a valuable addition to the list of reference for researchers working on phonological perspectives of tonal features.
Most of the chapters (i.e. Pt. I - 1,4 & 5; Part II - 1, 2, 4, 6, 7 & 9) are followed by explanatory notes with additional references on related issues discussed in the chapters, which is an added advantage. Overall, the book is rich in content and the references at the end of each chapter are of immense help to students of phonetics and phonology.
Clements, G. Nick.(1978).Tones and Syntax in Ewe: In: Donna Jo Napoli (ed.)Elements of Tone, Stress and Intonation, 21-99.Washington:Georgetown University Press.
Clements, G.N. and Hume, E.(1995). The internal organization of speech sounds. John A. Goldsmith (ed.) The Handbook of Phonological Theory, 245-306. Oxford: Blackwell.
Geumann, Anja (1997). Formant trajectory dynamics in Swabian diphthongs. Forchungsberichte des Instituts für Phonetik und Sprachliche Kommunikation der Universtät München 35:35-38.
Goldsmith, John A. (1976). Autosegmental Phonology. Ph.D. dissertation. M.I.T., New York: Garland Publishing.
Hiller, Markus.(2003). The diphthong dynamics discussion in Swabian. In: van de Weijer, van Heuven, and van der Hulst (eds.)The Phonological Spectrum. Amsterdam: John Benjamin.
Jones, D.(1918). An Outline of English Phonetics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Stevens, K. N. (1972). The quantal nature of speech; Evidence from articulatory-acoustic data. In: P. B. Denes and E. E. David Jr.(eds.), Human Communication: A Unified View, 51-66. New Yori:McGraw-Hill.
Stevens, K.N. (1989). On the quantal nature of speech. Journal of Phonetics 17:3-45.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Dr. Seetha Jayaraman is a Lecturer at Dhofar University, Sultanate of Oman,
where she teaches English language to undergraduates. Her research
interests include sociolinguistics, comparative linguistics, and
articulatory and acoustic phonetics.