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193972Re: Consonant clusters

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  • Benct Philip Jonsson
    Jan 1, 2013
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      In Swedish voice assimilation is always devoicing in both directions.
      Granted Swedish lenis stops are actually voiced only between two vowels or
      a vowel and a sonorant but in compounds like _fotboll bakdel utgång_
      'soccer, back part/butt, exit' the assimilation is to the point that the
      second stop is aspirated!

      As for morphological salience counteracting cluster simplification it is
      probably not altogether uncommon. However it is not universal. The Swedish
      word _väst-kust-sk-t_ 'west-coast-ish-N.SG' is famous as a case of a
      monster final cluster and there are two morpheme boundaries in the cluster,
      but the word is actually normally pronounced ['v\Es:k8s:kt] although it now
      occurs to me that all three morphemes are preserved at least in reduced
      form.

      I guess syllable timing vs. stress timing might have a lot to do with
      clusters being preserved in some languages but lost in others. It should be
      noted however that Modern Greek has restructured all old stop + stop
      clusters into fricative + stop, although stop + stop have been reintroduced
      in loans from Ancient Greek.

      As for Greek /ks/- becoming /z/- in English it may be because something
      looking like _x_ was used as an abbreviation for final /Vuz/ in Old French.
      When the diphthongs that /u/ was part of monophthongized _x_ was perceived
      as a spelling for /z/, so I guess _x-_ /z/ is a case of mistaken graphemic
      identity.

      /bpj

      Den söndagen den 30:e december 2012 skrev Alex Fink<000024@...>:

      > Let me try to draw this back on track.
      >
      > On Sat, 29 Dec 2012 17:12:04 -0600, Patrick Dunn <pwdunn@...<javascript:;>>
      > wrote:
      >
      > >Lots of natlangs obviously allow some wild and crazy consonant clusters
      > >(Georgian, as the prototype example, but also Greek and of course
      > English),
      > >while others simplify them through deletion or assimilation or some other
      > >process. I don't know, though, what triggers this. What makes
      > >word-initial /pt-/ okay in Greek, but simplified in English?
      >
      > I doubt anyone will be able to give many answers to this that are
      > satisfyingly non-circular. Initial [pt-] is legal in Greek because it was
      > created (most recently by pj > pc > pt), and hasn't been gotten rid of
      > since; it's illegal in English because it was gotten rid of (IE contained
      > some), and hasn't been created since.
      >
      > In view of the question of loanword adaptation, which you seem to be
      > getting at, this is maybe a bit facile, as for instance despite English's
      > rejection of Greek [pt-], it doesn't reject the originally equally invalid
      > [sf-]. I don't know what triggers that either: one can say things like
      > that [sf-] was legitimised by the existing [s]+obstruent clusters, but
      > that's post hoc and I wouldn't've known how to predict it, nor how to
      > predict that [pt-] would resolve to [t-] and not [p@t-] or anything else.
      > My own suspicion is that the key thing will be the nature of the phonetic
      > cues which speakers use to recognise contrasts, which is something that
      > (IME) doesn't get documented in detail very much.
      >
      > I've seen some theoretical work attempting to account for it, the great
      > numerical majority of it pertaining to optimality theory. But I don't
      > believe in optimality theory (at least certainly not in its full breadth),
      > because both it seems subject to near-unfalsifiability in its broader
      > extensions and it explicitly disclaims relation to actual mental processes
      > (first we generate an infinite set of candidates? really?)
      >
      > In any case, probably in _written_ borrowings all bets are off. Despite
      > an earlier thread on it I stìll have no clue why Greek initial [ks-] voices
      > in English, when the by rights 100% parallel [ps-] doesn't.
      >
      > >And are there consonant clusters that are *really* unlikely in any
      > >language? It seems that a voiced-unvoiced sequence like [bt] would be
      > >really unstable and probably therefore become [bd], but is that universal?
      >
      > Actually it would rather more likely become [pt]; voice assimilation is
      > usually anticipatory, and consonants releasing into a resonant usually
      > assimilate less readily than those not. That'll be a pretty frequent
      > change.
      >
      > >One thing that occurs to me is that if there is a lot of information
      > >encoded in the consonant, it's more likely to be preserved. So perhaps in
      > >Semitic languages where a lot of the semantics hangs on the consonants,
      > >there'd be less assimilation of adjacent consonants. But is that true?
      >
      > The effect is true: Semitic observably has very few conditioned consonant
      > changes for a family of its size and breadth. Information content, which
      > here means root distinctness, is probably not a significant reason for
      > that, though: there have been plenty of _unconditioned_ mergers of
      > consonants, which wreak equal or greater damage on root distinctness. No,
      > the reason I think Semitic points to is analogical pressure. Every Semitic
      > consonant cluster, except those in purely affixal or closed-class material,
      > is subject to an alternation with a form without the cluster. In view of
      > the alternation, the original values of the consonants are likely to get
      > restored if there is a conditioned change -- or really, are likely to be
      > continuously kept restored against conditioned change. The pressure is
      > especially great because the consonant sequence is all you have to go on
      > for root recognisability in Semitic -- unlike in, say, SAE, where remnant
      > ablaut etc. notwithstanding, roots usually contain a whole contiguous
      > recognisable syllable which doesn't get altered much except a bit around
      > the edges.
      >
      > Summary: one way clusters can be preserved is that morphological
      > transparency of a juncture can undo, or ward off, conditioned sound change.
      >
      > Alex
      >
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