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Preservation and minimality in loanword adaptation

  • CAROLE PARADIS (a1) (a2) and DARLENE LACHARITÉ (a3) (a4)
    • Published online: 01 September 1997

Attractive as might seem the challenge to build a process or performance model that can account for every behavioural decision, there are a number of sound reasons to tackle first the still difficult (but hopefully manageable) task of developing a competence model; of trying to find the underlying system that informs and constrains (if it doesn't always actually govern) choice. (Spolsky 1988: 105)

This article aims at showing the predictability of phonological adaptation, segment preservation and deletion in borrowings. It is shown that ill-formed segments are preserved and adapted in the vast majority of cases; segment deletion occurs only when an ill-formed segment is embedded within a higher level ill-formed structure, such as the syllable. This conclusion is based on the study of 15,686 segmental and syllabic malformations found in 11,348 loanword forms from five different corpora of loanwords. The analysis, which is set within the Theory of Constraints and Repair Strategies, is illustrated with the data from a corpus of 545 French loanwords in Fula.

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We are indebted to Peter Avery, Outi Bat-el, Renée Béland, Anna Bosch, Barbara Bullock, Carrie Dyck, John Goldsmith, Larry Hyman, John Ohala, Jean-François Prunet and Caroline Wiltshire for illuminating comments and/or useful discussions. We would like to offer special thanks to Sharon Inkelas for very detailed written comments and stimulating discussions. We are also grateful to the audience at the MOT Conference on Contrast in Phonology, held at the University of Toronto in February 1994, notably to Elan Dresher, Heather Goad, Beth Hume, David Odden, Glyne Piggott, Doug Pulleyblank, Keren Rice and Donca Steriade. Close versions of this paper or related papers were also presented during the fall 1994 to the Department of Linguistics of the University of California at Berkeley, Santa Cruz and Los Angeles, to that of Stanford University, and at the Trend Colloquium, held at University of California at Berkeley in October. These presentations allowed us to benefit from the comments of many people, in particular from those of Young-Mee Yu Cho, Bruce Hayes, Larry Hyman, Junko Itô, Wil Leben, Armin Mester, Paul Kiparsky, Donca Steriade and their students, especially Arto Anttila, Robert Kirchner, Orhan Orgun, Daniel Silverman and Cheryl Zoll. This paper has also benefited from the comments from three JL referees. Finally, we wish to express our gratitude to our research assistants, especially Robert Neely, Yvan Rose, Caroline Lebel and Eliane Lebel for stimulating comments and questions, and our informants for their patience. We remain solely responsible for the views expressed here as well as for any remaining errors or omissions. C. Paradis acknowledges SSHRC grants # 410-90-0575 and #410-94-1296 and FCAR grants # 90-NC-0383 and 95-ER-2305, from which D. LaCharité has also benefited. D. LaCharité acknowledges SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowship # 756-94-0031.
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Journal of Linguistics
  • ISSN: 0022-2267
  • EISSN: 1469-7742
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-linguistics
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