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date: 06 March 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Allophones can become independent phonemes when their conditioning environment is lost. This phenomenon constitutes a long-standing theoretical problem. In contemporary terms, it is the diachronic analogue to the problem of opacity in synchronic phonology. The structuralists explained the phonologization of allophones by locating sound change outside of phonology, so that it alters the phonetic implementation of speech blindly and structure independently. On this view, sound change is insulated from the phonological system, and affects it only indirectly through reanalysis of the output. There are several things that this approach cannot explain: (1) Allophones do not always remain: they sometimes revert. (2) Sound change can be constrained by the phonological system, and interact with it. (3) Sound changes never subvert phonological universals. This chapter argues on the contrary that phonology must be enriched with phonetic information, and that the original concept of a phoneme as a contrastive entity has to be abandoned. The chapter uses the Stratal OT framework and shows how its distinction between the lexical and postlexical strata provides independent theoretical support for this view of phonology. It offers an account of phonologization based on Stratal OT, which explains (1)‒(3), and leads to precise and testable predictions about the conditions under which sound change leads to new phonemes, and under which it interacts with existing phonology. The chapter provides empirical evidence that these predictions are correct.

Keywords: phonologization, Stratal Optimality Theory, structuralism, umlaut

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