The SALT project: Syllable structure: Acquisition, Loss and Typology

The project is financed by the Research Council of Norway in its FRIHUMSAM program.

In this project we intend to investigate the role of sonority, the sonority hierarchy and the sonority sequencing principle in the internal organisation of syllables. Preliminary typological findings by Krämer & Zec suggest that the current mainstream theory of syllable organisation is not well-founded empirically and in need of revision.
To investigate these theoretical issues and to be able to develop a more appropriate theory with a better empirical foundation we intend to create a database of the syllable phonotactics of 500 languages and to conduct research on children acquiring a language with complex syllable structure and a large consonant inventory as well as on subjects who lost competence in such a language to some degree, as in aphasia. Theories of phonotactic organisation have been developed and tested to date in individual case studies, or in typological studies with a very limited number of languages. Such studies always focus on very specific aspects of syllable structure or individual classes in the sonority hierarchy. While we appreciate in-depth case studies and narrow theoretical focus we have all reason to believe that these methodological approaches do not lead to appropriate scientific progress in the long run. We think it is necessary for theory development to keep the general picture in sight and test hypotheses on very different types of data (i.e., from acquisition, loss and cross-linguistic variation). The results as well as the data to be obtained in this project will be made publicly available to further scientific discussion of methodologies and development of theoretical models.
Since we intend to carry out research on acquisition and loss we expect that the results of this project will have practical repercussions for the wider population in the development of new diagnostic tests and therapies for language impairment based on the collected data and the theoretical insights gained in this project.

The project will be integrated in our research groups LAVA and FISH, and we will work closely with researchers from Cornell University and Universiteit Leiden.

Palatalization proceedings

The proceedings of the workshop on palatalization we held in Tromsø a while ago have been published. You find most papers in the first special collection of the new journal Glossa here. A few more papers appeared in a special issue of our own journal, Nordlyd here.

FiSk/FiNo meeting

FiNo, Fonologi i Norden (Phonology in the Nordic Countries), started out under the name FiSk, Fonologi i Skandinavia, and is intended as the annual meeting of scholars and students in the north interested in phonology to present their work (in progress) and talk to each other.

The first meeting was held on February 19-20 in Gothenburg, Sweden, organized by Laura Downing (Gothenburg/Tromsø) and Martin Krämer (Tromsø) with contributions from Bodø, Gothenburg, Helsinki, Kristiansand, Lund, Oslo, Stockholm, and Edinburgh.

The second meeting will be organized by Patrik Bye (Nord Universitet) and Allison Wetterlin (Universitetet i Agder) in Kristiansand on 24 and 25 February 2017.

Here is the program of the First meeting.

Upcoming conference: Palatalization

December 4-5 2014 at UiT The Arctic University of Norway, sponsored by CASTL and the Department of Linguistics

Abstract submission deadline August 30 2014

The conference webpage is here.

To submit an abstract click here.


Invited speakers

Alexei Kochetov (University of Toronto)

Ania Łubowicz (University of Minnesota)

Jaye Padgett (UC Santa Cruz)


Organizers Martin Krämer, Olga Urek


Call for papers

Palatalization is commonly attested in the languages of the world, and has received considerable attention in the literature over the years.

However, it is by no means clear which processes count as palatalization phonologically or if the term refers to one or several phenomena. Palatalization processes exhibit great variation within and across languages, regarding the triggers of the process, the targets, and the output of the process. Most studies focus on a certain palatalization process in a specific language. Nevertheless, typological surveys have revealed some intriguing tendencies. Among these are apparently universal implicational relations that have been shown to hold among palatalization triggers and targets. For instance, survey results indicate that if labials undergo palatalization, so do coronals and dorsals (Bhat 1978, Chen 1973, Bateman 2007). If lower front vocoids trigger palatalization, so do higher front vocoids, and if non-front high vocoids act as triggers, so do front high vocoids (Bateman 2007, Kochetov 2011). In addition, coronals tend to be palatalized by high vocoids, while dorsals tend to be palatalized by front vocoids (Bhat 1978, Kochetov 2011).

Outputs of palatalization show a range of variation. The targeted segment either acquires a secondary palatal place of articulation or shifts the primary place of articulation closer to the palatal region. Interestingly, changes in the primary place of articulation are often accompanied by spirantization. In addition, the change of manner without the change of place is also attested (Bhat 1978, Bateman 2007).

Theoretical approaches to palatalization face a considerable challenge of characterizing language-specific patterns in addition to capturing cross-linguistic tendencies and variability. Palatalization processes have been crucial in developing and testing representational and computational phonological models (Clements 1991, Rubach 2003, Padgett 2003, Baker 2004, Bateman 2007, Iosad and Morén-Duolljá 2009,Youssef 2013).

We invite submissions for presentations, including (but not limited to) formal analyses, typological and comparative studies, natural and unnatural patterns, expressive palatalization, acquisition, diachronic accounts, or the phonetics of palatalization.

Abstracts for short or long talks, or posters can soon be submitted via easyabs and should not exceed one A4 page with 12 point font and 2.45cm (1 inch) margins and an additional page for data, figures, and references.

There will be a limited budget to provide support for travel expenses for participants with no research funds from their home institution. In case your abstract is accepted, you may apply for support.

Looking forward to your abstract

Martin, Olga

Language in the mind: Phonological representations – new book

Cambridge University Press has just released my new book “Underlying Representations” in their series Key Topics in Phonology. You can order it here. It is available as hardcover and paperback.
To give you an idea of its contents, here is the blurb from the back cover:

At the heart of generative phonology lies the assumption that the sounds of every language have abstract underlying representations, which undergo various changes in order to generate the ‘surface’ representations; that is, the sounds we actually pronounce. The existence, status and form of underlying representations have been hotly debated in phonological research since the introduction of the phoneme in the nineteenth century. This book provides a comprehensive overview of theories of the mental representation of the sounds of language. How does the mind store and process phonological representations? Krämer surveys the development of the concept of underlying representation over the last 100 years or so within the field of generative phonology. He considers phonological patterns, psycholinguistic experiments, statistical generalisations over data corpora and phenomena such as hypercorrection. The book offers a new understanding of contrastive features and proposes a modification of the optimality-theoretic approach to the generation of underlying representations.


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