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Habilitation à diriger des recherches

De la syllabation en termes de contours CV.

Abstract : In all phonological models of syllable structure, 'sonority', and, in particular, one of its main correlates — voice(lessness) — are intrinsic properties of segments, as opposed, for example, to length, which also plays a major role in syllable stucture, and was shown to be a prosodic effect by autosegmental phonology, thanks to the notion of skeletal positions and the Obligatory Contour Principle. This has particular importance today, since the segmental nature of sonority may naturally be viewed as evidence for 'output-based' and non-representational approaches to the syllable.
The basic claim here is that voice, and, more generally, all features associated with 'voice onset time' (VOT) — voice, voicelessness and aspiration (henceforth VOT-values) — are not segmental features ; rather, VOT-values and length contrasts are to be assigned similar representations. It is proposed that phonological words are characterized by two parallel curves which follow from the association with the skeleton of two autonomous and antinomic tiers : the O-tier, where 'onsets' are the roots of consonants, is supposed to stand for (articulatory) 'tension' ; the N-tier, where 'nuclei' are the roots of vowels, represents (perceptual) 'sonority'. VOT-values and length contrasts are, as it were, contextual allophones of such abstract invariants : aspiration and voice emerge from O-spreading to the following N-slot, and from N-spreading to the preceding O-slot respectively ; consonantal and vocalic length results from O-spreading to the preceding N-slot, and from N-spreading to the following O-slot respectively.
The representation of VOT-values and length in terms of O/N interactions provides a simple and straightforward solution to six problems at least : (a) why can no segment contain the sole 'feature' [voiced] or [aspirated] ? ; (b) why do gemination and voice behave as the poles of the same 'strength scale' ? ; (c) why are voice contrasts much more frequent among consonants than among vowels ? ; (d) why is compensatory lengthening impossible before vowel ? ; (e) why are both initial aspiration and final voicing 'edge-specific' marked phenomena ? ; (f) why does voicing normally take place in intervocalic position, but fails to occur either word-initially or after coda ? Finally, voicing and vowel lengthening are shown to be alternative lenition strategies.
Beyond its explanatory power, the hypothesis of O/N interactions has an important issue on cognitive grounds. By denying any symbolic status to aspiration and voice, we are led to reduce the number of segmental primitives. By assuming that both VOT-values and length contrasts are segmental effects of onset and nucleus weight, defined as the number of slots onsets and nuclei are associated with, we are assigning a representational basis to syllables : 'syllables' exist wherever VOT and/or length contrasts may emerge. This runs counter the claims of output-based approaches, where syllables emerge from smaller units. A contrario, the present theory is likely to lend phonological support to quite independently grounded ideas, since based on brain studies, like MacNeilage's distinction between frame and content. In particular, the assumed autonomy of syllabic structure, i.e. of VOT/length, vis-à-vis segmental material proper is consonant with "the idea that speech production branches into metrical and segmental processes, and that syllabic frames are conceptually separable from their phonemic content".
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Habilitation à diriger des recherches
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Contributor : Joaquim Brandão De Carvalho <>
Submitted on : Friday, October 20, 2006 - 8:11:34 PM
Last modification on : Tuesday, May 5, 2020 - 11:50:19 AM
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  • HAL Id : tel-00108469, version 1


Joaquim Brandão De Carvalho. De la syllabation en termes de contours CV.. Linguistique. Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), 2002. ⟨tel-00108469⟩



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