Quasi-phonemic contrast and the fuzzy inventory: examples from Scottish English

Scobbie, James M and Stuart-Smith, Jane (2006) Quasi-phonemic contrast and the fuzzy inventory: examples from Scottish English. QMU Speech Science Research Centre Working Papers.


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In this article we propose that contrast must be treated as a gradient phenomenon at the phonological level, with membership of a phonemic inventory being a matter of degree. This is because, though minimal pairs provide simple and strong evidence of contrast, things are not always so straightforward. Defining “minimal” is one challenge; as is determining which aspects of a contrast are distinctive and which redundant. Non-phonological information is sometimes a necessary consideration. These complications are usually thought to affect the analysis of a phenomenon in a discrete way, tipping the binary balance held by the phonologist towards either one analysis or another. We, on the other hand, see the necessity of evaluating contrastive evidence and of taking other linguistic information into account as being an indication that contrastiveness is a scalar property. We address some patterns in the sound system of Scottish English; ones which provide less than clear evidence of phonemicity — or, as we think, evidence of less than clear phonemicity.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This series consists of unpublished “working” papers. They are not final versions and may be superseded by publication in journal or book form, which should be cited in preference. All rights remain with the author(s) at this stage, and circulation of a work in progress in this series does not prejudice its later publication. Comments to authors are welcome. A draft of a chapter to appear in Peter Avery,Elan B. Dresher and Keren Rice (eds.). Contrast: perception and acquisition: selected papers from the second international conference in contrast in phonology. Toronto: Mouton de Gruyter / University of Toronto, due for publication 2006-2007.
Divisions: School of Health Sciences > Clinical Audiology, Speech and Language Research Centre
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2009 17:53
Last Modified: 02 Feb 2017 15:37
URI: http://eresearch.qmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/150


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