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«Formal Phonology* David Odden OSU Abstract Two problematic trends have dominated modern phonological theorizing: over-reliance on machinery of ...»

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⎡ྎ+ voc ⎤ྏ ⎢ྎ- cons ⎥ྏ → [αround] (14) ⎣ྏαback⎦ྏ Since the variable α appears on different features, no translation of either of these rules into FeatureIdentity theory is possible The question is whether it is justified to claim that these rules are in the grammars of these languages. In the case of Viennese German, data on the phenomenon is so limited that it is impossible to determine whether this is an active phonological process, or just a historical sound change. No evidence shows that the underlying forms of Viennese ‘four’ and ‘for’, or ‘many’ and ‘feel’ are distinct, and without such evidence, the claim that there is a rule at all cannot be accepted. We are not even given evidence that front round and non-round vowels contrast in this dialect. Without something stronger than historical relations between dialects, the claim for there being a synchronic rule is arbitrary.31 The correlation between backness and roundness in vowels, on the other hand, is known to exist in a number of languages, such as various Romance languages, virtually all Bantu languages, Basque, Czech and Modern Greek. Redundant correlations between phonetic properties in the phonemic inventories of languages exist, so that voiceless stops are aspirated and voiced ones are unaspirated in a number of Bantu languages; consonants are voiced if and only if they are sonorant in Cuzco Quechua, inter alia. There is no denying the factual generalization implied by (14), but the question that has to be answered is whether the generalization is a phonological one or a phonetic one. It is invalid to declare a priori that physical tongue retraction or lip protrusion in Uzbek or Spanish entails the feature specifications [+round] vs.

[-round], or [+back] vs. [-back]. While [i,e] contrast with [u,o], only a single feature is needed to make that contrast. Additional phonological evidence is needed to support the claim that both rounding and backness are phonologically specified in these languages. See Dresher (2009) for discussion of how languages with this classical triangular vowel system can differ in the featural basis for the contrast. The burden rests on a proponent of the theory that both rounding and backness are phonologically specified in a language claimed to have a rule like (14).

An additional problem underlying the claim that (13) and (14) are rules in grammars is the lack of argument that the operations are formally subsumed under one rule. Suppose that a language were uncovered with a clear, active phonological process, where the value of a feature in a segment is the same as or opposite of another feature (in that segment or another). The argument must still be made that a single rule is at work. As Alan Prince observed at the 1989 MIT Conference on Feature and Underspecification Theories, if a language can have backness harmony and if a language can have roundness harmony, then a language can have backness and roundness harmony. Specific evidence is required to establish that the rounding of back vowels (backing of round vowels) and the unrounding of front vowels (fronting of nonround vowels) derive from a single rule. Arguments of that type can, in principle, be made – see Odden (1991) for arguments in support of the single-rule status of harmonies of vowel-height features, and of back and round, based on shared unlikely restrictions. The fact that Value-Variable theory allows two processes to be expressed as a single rule is not proof that the processes result from a single rule; the fact that Value-Variable theory allows two processes to be expressed as a single rule is therefore not proof that Markus Pöchtrager and John Rennison inform me that there is no evidence for a rounding distinction, and that like Bavarian in general, front round vowels have simply been changed to unrounded vowels, but can be historically rerounded before original *l, which is often synchronically deleted or changed to [j].

–  –  –

Value-Variable theory is correct. An independent demonstration that (13) is a rule is what would show that Value-Variable theory is correct. Until that is done, Feature-Identity theory stands as the only theory of feature-variable behavior consistent with FP.

7. Summary To make real progress in phonological theory, we must focus on what phonological theory is a theory of – it is a theory of grammatical computations. Then in order to construct a solid hierarchy of theoretical concepts that describes the nature of human phonological grammars, there must be a firm logical connection between observable facts and theoretical conclusion about the facts. Firm logical connections are established by setting high standards for justification of claims – postulation of arbitrary conjectures awaiting ‘testing’ does not constitute a valid method of theory construction. When the referents of phonological concepts are well-understood, it is possible to express generalizations about phonologies in very simple terms, where a concept translates into an unambiguous symbol, and we can sensibly discuss the form of phonological computations. Reaching this goal is the purpose of the theory Formal Phonology.


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