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Title:Degrees of (Un)acceptability in Syllable Contact
Authors: Schuhmann, Katharina S.
Length:30 pp. (including appendices and references)
Abstract:This paper presents empirical evidence that phonological grammar determines different degrees of acceptability and unacceptability with respect to the emergence of syllable contact restrictions. Unlike all other areas of German phonology, i-truncations do not allow syllable contact sequences of rising sonority (Ito & Mester 1997). Such syllable contact restrictions can be accounted for by the emergence of a universal markedness scale that ranks all potential syllable contact cases in a hierarchy of strata from least marked to most marked with language-specific cut-off points (Gouskova 2004).

A grammaticality judgment task with nonce i-truncations was conducted to test the hypothesis that the markedness scale for syllable contact surfaces as different degrees of unacceptability and acceptability. The results of this study support the hypothesis that underlying markedness levels of the syllable contact scale are reflected in differential acceptability judgments. As expected, the stimuli in the grammatical strata have better acceptability scores than the stimuli in the ungrammatical strata. Crucially, the results for the five ungrammatical strata show a steady five-step trend of increasing rejection that epitomizes the five levels of increasing syllable contact markedness in the stimuli. The acceptability judgments for stimuli in the five grammatical strata show a four-step trend of decreasing acceptance that epitomizes four of the five levels of increasing syllable contact markedness in the stimuli.

These results are particularly intriguing since these acceptability judgments show subtle markedness effects that cannot be explained as frequency effects, or as patterns that German speakers could have learned from the German lexicon or phonology since syllable-contact restrictions are specific to i-truncations in German. Overall, these results provide novel evidence that German speakers have inherent knowledge about phonological markedness at the level of syllable contact.
Type:Paper/tech report
Area/Keywords:phonology, gradience, TETU, markedness, phonotactics, universals
Article:Version 1