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Backness Distinction in Phonology

A Polish Perspective on the Phonemic Status of «y»

Series:

Paweł Rydzewski

This book discusses the phonological consequences of the backness distinction in high vowels. It focuses on a single-phoneme approach which does not recognize the existence of the vowel y. The author demonstrates that the role of y is crucial for the analysis of Polish palatalization. If y is recognized as a separate phoneme, then the processes receive a straightforward account in Lexical Phonology and Optimality Theory, the two frameworks used in the study. On the other hand, the absence of y leads to unwarranted exceptionality and entails an extensive use of diacritics or lexical constraints. The analyses show, however, that the lack of y is empirically unfeasible and requires segment indexation, a solution unheard of in phonology.

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Preface

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This book provides an in-depth analysis of phonological consequences of abandoning the backness distinction in high vowels in Polish. The book examines whether the approach introduced in Padgett (2001, 2003, 2010), which does not recognize the existence of the underlying vowel //ɨ//, offers a tenable scenario. The analyses presented in the following chapters are couched in two phonological frameworks. For expository and comparative purposes, Lexical Phonology (Kiparsky 1982, Mohanan 1986, Booij & Rubach 1987) is chosen as the most recent rule-based framework. The results of rule-based derivations are juxtaposed with a constraint-based theory, Optimality Theory (Prince & Smolensky 1994, McCarthy & Prince 1995). To examine the single-phonemic approach, palatalization processes in the class of coronals and velars are chosen as the material for inquiry. This book is organized as follows.

Chapter 1 presents goals of the book and delineates the two theoretical frameworks, Lexical Phonology and Optimality Theory, which shall be utilized throughout the book. The chapter provides a brief introduction to the Polish sound system, focusing on its consonants and vowels. The final sections of the chapter comprise an outline of phonological approaches to //ɨ//, which offer a historical perspective on the phonemic status of the vocalic segment.

Chapter 2 addresses palatalization processes in the class of coronals. As the starting point of the discussion, the rules of Coronal Palatalization and Surface Palatalization have been chosen. First, the application of the rules is analyzed from the perspective of Lexical Phonology under...

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