Chapter published in:Beyond Markedness in Formal Phonology
Edited by Bridget D. Samuels
[Linguistik Aktuell/Linguistics Today 241] 2017
► pp. 47–68
Chapter 3. What are grammars made of?
The 21st century has brought major advances in our understanding of sound patterns, their phonetic basis, and their cross-linguistic diversity. Properties that were once thought to be universal, from phonological features to prosodic units like the syllable, have shown themselves to be highly variable across languages, and to sometimes fail at the very specific organizational role they are meant to play within sound systems. The goal of this chapter is to summarize evidence from the diversity of phonological systems that may inform areas of disagreement in modeling phonological grammars, with special attention to the locus of explanation in phonological theory. General arguments against phonological universals and phonological markedness in grammar are presented, including distinctive features, the sonority scale, and the prosodic hierarchy. Arguments for language-specific sound patterns and extra-grammatical explanations are also presented, including rare phoneme inventories, rare phonotactics, and distinct modality-specific properties of spoken versus signed languages.
Keywords: explanation, linguistic diversity, markedness, phonological grammar, universals
Published online: 16 November 2017
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