A theory of subfeatural representations: The case of rounding harmony in Laal

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This paper introduces subfeatural representations to capture subphonemic distinctions at work in 'subphonemic teamwork'. The unusual case of Laal is presented, in which rounding harmony requires two triggers: a round vowel and a labial consonant. The coarticulatory effect of the labial consonant is shown, on the basis of instrumental evidence, to incur a distinctive, but non-contrastive, intermediate level of rounding on the target vowel, analysed as being featurally [-round], but subfeaturally xround (0 < x < 1). xround vowels are shown to form a separate natural class, which can be independently targeted by phonological processes. Subfeatural representations are argued to constitute an advantageous reification of phonetic knowledge, forming a more solid basis for phonetically driven models of phonology. This proposal builds on the insights of previous literature that perceptual representations are needed in phonology, while eschewing the need for direct reference to phonetics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)523-564
Number of pages42
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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