Chapter 6: Segmental change: an outline of some of the most common phonological processes 6.1. Sounds in connected speech. Coarticulation 6.2.

Feature Changes. Assimilation. Different types of assimilation 6.3. Voicing and devoicing 6.4. Nasalization 6.5. Palatalization 6.6. Lenitions and fortitions 6.7. Delitions and insertions 6.8. Metathesis

6.6. Lenitions and fortitions
These are phonological processes that involve changes in the force of articulation feature fortis/lenis. Thus, the change from Ancient Greek dental and respectively velar aspirated plosives to dental and respectively velar fricatives illustrates the process of lenition since plosives involve a greater articulatory effort than fricatives. E.g.: /thalassa / “sea” → /θalassa/ /khroma/ “colour” → /xroma/ /biblos/ “book” → /vivlos/ Conversly, fortitions involve a change from a weaker sound (say, a voiced stop), to a sound involving a greater articulatory effort (a voiceless stop). It is compulsory in German to devoice and consequently strengthen the pronunciation of syllable-final voiced stops. Consider the following examples: Tag [ta:k] ”day” vs. Tage [ta:gc] “days” Weg [ve:k] “way” vs. [ve:gc] “ways” A similar process in vowels will involve the changing of a tense vowel into a lax one or a lax one into a tense one. We talk in such cases of the phonological processes of laxing and, respectively, tensing. Diachronically, these processes had a major influence on the pronunciation of English vowels, but the scope of this book will not allow us to go into details. Suffice it to say that many English derived words illustrate the phenomenon. If we compare the adjective sublime and the noun sublimity or the verb suffice to the adjective sufficient we will easily notice that the first member of each pair includes a diphthong (a tense vowel), while the inflected word has a lax monophthong in the root. According to Chomsky and Halle, this is explained by the existence in the underlying representation of a tense vowel which surfaces as such (diphthongized, in fact) in the case of the first members of the pairs, and undergoes a process of laxing in the derived word. U.R. subl¦m + r




scblwmwtw laxing

Conversely, in the pair, courage - courageous, we have a common underlying lax vowel which is left unchanged in the first word, but undergoes tensing and diphthongization in the derived one: (1968: 73) U.R. koræge → koræge + r → k∧rw® → korAge + os → kcrew®cs tensing

Derivation can trigger not only the modification of vowels in the root, as in the examples above, but also cause consonantal alternations in the morpheme the affix is attached to. Thus, in pairs like permit/permissive, democrat/democracy, include/inclusive decide/decisive or fanatic/fanaticism, medic/medicine we notice the replacement of d by s. In the examples discussed above under assimilation, the high vowel in the affix coalesced with the consonant in the root and the process resulted into a palatoalveolar sound. Since these changes are caused by morphological processes and the nature of the affix that is attached to the base is essential for the phonological transformations, we are actually at the interface between morphology and phonology in a territory that is often called morphophonology, morphophonemics or lexical phonology. Lengthening and shortening of vowels are very frequent processes and we have already mentioned that English vowels have shorter allophones when followed by voiceless sounds and longer ones if the context of the vowel is voiced (see, above, the comparison between bit and bid and beat and bead). Aspiration is also an important change that affects English voiceless plosives in syllable-initial position, when they are followed by a stressed vowel. In English the change is allophonic and conditioned by the distribution of the sound, as we have just remembered. It is an automatic, obligatory change and failure to pronounce the plosives with an aspiration will be perceived by native speakers of English as a mark of foreign accent.

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