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