We are very happy to announce the next talk in the Phonology Colloquium, which will take place on Wednesday, June 19, 4 – 6 pm in IG 4.301.

Christian Uffmann (Universität Düsseldorf) will present „Caught a cool call? Phonetic Change, Splits, and Mergers in Southern England“.



Caught a cool call? Phonetic Change, Splits, and Mergers in Southern England
This talk has three aims. Firstly, it reports a series of phonological changes in London English, triggered by a phonetic change. In London, as in many other varieties of English, /u:/ undergoes a gradient process of fronting – but not before tautosyllabic /l/. Thus the vowel in cool is phonetically back while the vowel in coop is phonetically front. This has led to a merger of the cool and call sets. In a subsequent step, we are witnessing a phonemic split where the cool-call set is for some speakers realised differently from the caught set (while for more conservative speakers all three are the same).
Secondly, I am going to propose a phonological analysis of these changes that can also explain why these changes occurred in London. I will show that the merger is a consequence of the properties of the phonological system of London English, while the split is motivated by other current changes to that system.
Thirdly, I want to discuss how the observed changes can shed light on theoretical assumptions made in phonology, especially with respect to distinctive feature theory. How is phonetic change accommodated for in phonological representations, and how can gradient change become categorical? I will argue for a reductionist view of phonological features as purely contrastive, while phonetic gradience and variation occur at the interface to phonetics, and propose a model that can account for phonetic gradience as a consequence of phonological underspecification.

You are cordially invited!