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Title:A Typology of Rhotic Duration Contrast and Neutralization
Authors:Travis G. Bradley
Comment:A slightly modified version of the paper appearing in the Proceedings of NELS 31
Abstract:A Typology of Rhotic Duration Contrast and Neutralization

Travis G. Bradley
The Pennsylvania State University

Rhotics are known for the considerable phonetic variety they exhibit across languages and dialects. Most of the world's languages exhibit a single type of rhotic sound, but some languages have more than one, usually contrastive in type rather than place (Ladefoged & Maddieson 1996:237). A number of languages have a phonological durational distinction between an extra-short apical tap and a sustainable multiple-cycle trill. These languages differ with respect to the environments in which rhotic duration contrast is maintained, and further differences are found in the phonetic outcomes of neutralization.

This paper explores patterns of tap/trill contrast and neutralization in Spanish, Basque, Kaliai-Kove, Palauan, Kairiru, Ngizim and Kurdish. Following the Licensing-by-Cue framework of Steriade (1995, 1997), as well as the representations of tap and trill proposed by Inouye (1995) and Bakovic (1994), respectively, I develop a phonetically-based Optimality-theoretic account of why these languages allow contrast where they do and of what happens in positions of neutralization. The observed patterns are accounted for in terms of the interaction among three conflicting forces, formalized as violable faithfulness and markedness constraints. Specifically, a hierarchy of contrast preservation constraints strives to maintain tap/trill contrast in positions of increasing perceptual salience. Articulatory markedness constraints on the aperture structure of rhotics trigger fortition to trill and lenition to tap in the appropriate contexts.
Type:Paper/tech report
Article:Version 1