Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Vowel reduction in Russian: No phonetics in phonology1

  • PAVEL IOSAD (a1)

Much recent work in phonology concentrates on the role of sonority in the phenomenon of vowel reduction, capitalizing on two facts: that reduction involves raising and/or shortening and that higher vowels and schwa are normally interpreted as having low sonority. This paper presents a different approach to vowel reduction in Standard Russian. It is proposed that the apparent sonority-driven effects in Russian are epiphenomenal. In particular, reduction to schwa is outside the domain of phonological computation in Russian, being an artifact of reduced duration. Other types of neutralization arising in vowel reduction are potentially amenable to a sonority-based analysis, but I argue that current approaches to sonority-driven reduction suffer from representational shortcomings. When these shortcomings are rectified, however, sonority is unnecessary as an explicit factor in vowel reduction: standard markedness mechanisms suffice to explain the data.

Corresponding author
Author's address: Center for Advanced Study in Theoretical Linguistics, University of Tromsø, 9037 Tromsø,
Hide All

Versions of this paper were presented at the November Seminar in Russian and the Laboratory Phonology course workshop (both at the University of Tromsø, November 2008 and May 2009, respectively), the Third Scandinavian Ph.D. Conference in Linguistics and Philology (University of Bergen, June 2009) and the Seventh European Conference on Formal Description of Slavic Languages (University of Potsdam, December 2009). I thank the audiences at these fora for their valuable feedback and discussion, in particular Abby Cohn, John Kingston, Gjert Kristoffersen, Margje Post, and Anton Zimmerling. Comments by Bruce Morén-Duolljá and two anonymous referees for the Journal of Linguistics have greatly enhanced both content and presentation. The paper has also benefited from discussions with Sergei Knyazev, Tore Nesset, and Evgeny Shaulskiy. I remain solely responsible for any and all shortcomings.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

John Alderete . 2008. Using learnability as a filter on factorial typology: A new approach to Anderson and Browne's generalization. Lingua 118.8, 11771220.

Cécile Fougeron & Patricia A. Keating . 1997. Articulatory strengthening at edges of prosodic domains. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 101.6, 3728–40.

Alice C Harris . 2008. On the explanation of typologically unusual structures. In Jeff Good (ed.), Linguistic universals and language change, 5476. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

John Harris . 1997. Licensing inheritance. Phonology 14.3, 315370.

John Harris . 2005. Vowel reduction as information loss. In Philip Carr , Jacques Durand & Colin J. Ewen (eds.), Headhood, elements, specification, and contrastivity: Papers in honour of John Anderson (Current Issues in Linguistic Theory 259), 119132. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Patricia A Keating . 1987. Acoustic study of Russian vowel allophones. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 81S1, S67S68.

Patricia A. Keating 1990a. The window model of coarticulation: Acoustic evidence. In John Kingston & Mary Beckman (eds.), Papers in Laboratory Phonology I: Between the grammar and physics of speech, 451470. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

John Kingston & Randy L. Diehl . 1994. Phonetic knowledge. Language 70.3, 419454.

Robert Kirchner . 1997. Contrastiveness and faithfulness. Phonology 14.1, 83–111.

Ken Lodge . 2009. Fundamental concepts in phonology: Sameness and difference. Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh Press.

Bruce Morén . 2006. Consonant–vowel interactions in Serbian: Features, representations and constraint interactions. Lingua 116, 11981244.

John J Ohala . 1978. Production of tone. In Victoria A. Fromkin (ed.), Tone: A linguistic survey, 5–39. New York: Academic Press.

Jaye Padgett . 2003. Contrast and post-velar fronting in Russian. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 21.1, 3987.

Jaye Padgett & Marija Tabain . 2005. Adaptive Dispersion Theory and phonological vowel reduction in Russian. Phonetica 62, 1454.

Orrin Warner Robinson . 1976. A ‘scattered’ rule in Swiss German. Language 52.1, 148–62.

Jerzy Rubach . 2000. Backness switch in Russian. Phonology 17, 3964.

Jerzy Rubach . 2007. Feature geometry from the perspective of Polish, Russian, and Ukrainian. Linguistic Inquiry 38.1, 85–138.

Rachel Walker . 2005. Weak triggers in vowel harmony. Natural Language & Linguistic Theory 23.4, 917989.

Alan C. L Yu . 2007. A natural history of infixation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of Linguistics
  • ISSN: 0022-2267
  • EISSN: 1469-7742
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-linguistics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 11
Total number of PDF views: 60 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 203 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 24th May 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.