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Thursday, October 10 • 2:30pm - 2:55pm
Ceolin: On functional load and its relation to the actuation problem

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On functional load and its relation to the actuation problem

There have been many attempts to address the actuation problem using interspeaker variation (Baker et al. 2011), articulatory biases (Sóskuthy 2015) and informativity (Cohen Priva 2017). In this presentation we study another factor, Functional Load, by replicating the analysis in Wedel et al. (2013) and examining ongoing mergers in British English, American English and Dutch, trying to isolate the conditions under which Functional Load has a detectable effect in preventing a merger and the conditions under which instead no effect is present. The effect is clear in cases of consonant mergers, like devoicing of Dutch fricatives and th-fronting in English varieties, but unclear for vowel mergers, where phonetic confusability is the only significant predictor of a merger. We discuss the implications of these findings for the actuation problem and for phonological development.


Andrea Ceolin

University of Pennsylvania

Thursday October 10, 2019 2:30pm - 2:55pm PDT
EMU Crater Lake S
  T: Language change
  • Session type Talk
  • Chair: Ceil Lucas