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The Typology of Voicing and Devoicing

From: Language
Volume 77, Number 2, June 2001
pp. 207-244 | 10.1353/lan.2001.0123

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THE TYPOLOGY OF VOICING AND DEVOICING W. LEO WETZELS JOAN MASCARO? FreeUniversityAmsterdam AutonomousUniversityofBarcelona This article provides empirical evidence against the claims that [voice] is a privative feature and that word-internal devoicing can occur in a language without word-final devoicing. The study of voice patterns in a number of languages shows that the feature value [H11502voice] although it is theunmarked valueof thelaryngeal feature[voice], can beactivephonologically in a fashion parallel to the marked value [H11501voice]. Across languages, voice assimilation may occur independently of devoicing and, although it normally affects both [H11501voice] and [H11502voice], it may affect only onevaluein somelanguages.* Finaldevoicingandvoicingassimilationaretwophenomenathathavereceivedbroad attention in the literature. In this article we re-examine these phenomena, focusing on the representation of [H11506voice] and on the proper formulation of the mechanisms responsible for surface (de)voicing effects. Our objective is to argue against a number of assumptions on (de)voicing that underlie recent discussions of these phenomena. One assumption is that there are languages?Yiddish, Serbo-Croatian, and Rumanian are claimed to belong to this class?in which word-final coda consonants constitute exceptionstosyllable-finaldevoicing.Wewillargue,instead,thattheselanguageshave no syllable-final devoicing. We will also show that there is no empirical evidence in favor of the claim that devoicing can affect only part of a cluster of voiced consonants withoutbeingprosodicallyconditioned.Itfurthermoreappearsthatlanguagesthatapply devoicing to a class of segments at the end of a prosodic category n, devoice the same set of segments at the end of all prosodic categories that contain n, i.e. syllable-final devoicing implies word-final devoicing, etc. Most importantly, we will empirically falsify theclaim that [ H11502voice] does not belong to the universal set of phonological features by illustrating the assimilation of [H11502voice] in a variety of languages, postlexically as well as lexically. Our conclusion is that [voice] is a binary feature. 1. A PRELIMINARY TYPOLOGY OF VOICE ASSIMILATION AND DEVOICING. In somelanguages voice neutralization (devoicing) occurs at the end of the syllable. In the same language, voice assimilation may or may not occur. Whereas Dutch has voice assimilation, German does not, as is illustrated in Table 1. For the sake of comparison, we add Yiddish,1 which has only assimilation, and Berber, which shows neither devoicing nor generalized assimilation.2 * We wish to thank the following for useful comments or discussion: Harry Bochner, Ioana Chitoran, Nick Clements, Januacele Costa, Franc?ois Dell, Carlos Gussenhoven, W. U. S. van Lessen Kloeke, Marc van Oostendorp, Jeroen van de Weijer, K. G. Vijayakrishnan. The article has also profited from comments provided by two anonymous referees and by the Language editors Mark Aronoff and Sharon Inkelas. We aloneareresponsiblefor any errors this articlemay contain. 1 ThetypologyofYiddish(de)voicingappearstobecontroversial.WewillextensivelydiscusstheYiddish facts in ?3.1. 2 Most of the examples that illustrate word-internal devoicing are compounds. This raises the question of whether compound boundaries should be considered word-internal rather than word-final or word-initial. We will sidestep this question. Suffice it to say that all the languages considered here show the same syllablefinal voicing properties in nonderived words. The Berber examples are from Elmedlaoui 1989. The dialect described by Elmedlaoui, the Tashlhiyt of Imdlawn, has a restricted rule of voicing assimilation that applies to clusters identical except for voicing. Moroccan Arabic is similar to Berber with respect to voicing (see Harrell 1962). Cho (1990a:166?67, 1990b:149) gives examples of other languages without voicing effects (Santee, Kannada, and Tulu). 207 LANGUAGE, VOLUME 77, NUMBER 2 (2001)208 H9268-FINAL DEVOICING CONTRAST WORD-FINAL WORD-INTERNAL ASSIMILATION I. German yes yes no ei[z]ig ?icy? Ei[s] ?ice? Ei[s]lauf ?skating race? Ei[sb]a?r ?polar bear? wei[s]er ?whiter? wei[s] ?white? Wei[s]ling ?butterfly, species? Wei[sb]ier ?wheat beer? II. Yiddish no no yes ge[z]unt ?healthy? hoy[z] ?house? hoy[z]maynster ?handyman? hoy[sf]un ?house of? be[s]er ?better? zi[s] ?sweet? mo[s]mitl ?measure? zi[zv]arg ?candy products? III. Dutch yes yes yes ij[z]ig ?icy? ij[s] ?ice? ij[s]lolly ?ice lolly? ij[zb]eer ?polar bear? bo[s]en ?woods? bo[s] ?wood? bo[s]land ?woodland? bo[zb]ouw ?wood management? IV. Berber...

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