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Laryngeal assimilation, markedness and typology*

  • Jason Brown (a1)

Current typologies of voice assimilation between obstruents include languages that exhibit either assimilation to voicelessness (a type of emergence of the unmarked effect) or onset-controlled patterns, where the value controlling the change is in the onset obstruent. In either case, this type of local assimilation is considered to result in (contextually) unmarked structures. This article presents data that highlights a previously unrecognised pattern: assimilation resulting in voicing (an ‘emergence of the marked’ effect). This pattern has implications for how markedness is expressed in grammar. It is argued here that voicing is a privative feature, and that faithfulness constraints regulating the feature [voice] yield a rich typology that includes emergence of both marked and unmarked patterns. In addition, this typology yields benefits that are lost if voicing is considered a binary feature. This is illustrated by extending the dynamics of this voicing typology to other laryngeal features, such as [spread glottis].

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Thanks go first and foremost to Sam Mandal for constant discussion of the content of the paper, as well as for providing Bangla data; the work presented here was originally inspired by Mandal (2013). Thanks also to Chris Golston, Zoe Lippsett, Francis McWhannell, Miriam Meyerhoff, Nina Riikonen, three anonymous reviewers and an associate editor for reading and commenting extensively on earlier drafts of this paper. Thanks are also due to audiences at the MARCS Institute at the University of Western Sydney, Macquarie University and the University of Auckland, and in particular to Cathi Best, Katherine Demuth, Michael Procter and Jason Shaw for helpful feedback. Much of this work was completed as a visiting researcher at the MARCS Institute; the support from that institution is gratefully acknowledged. The following individuals contributed valuable data or help with data: Shelome Gooden, Susanna Kirby, Peter Patrick, Paroma Sanyal, Jason Shaw, K. G. Vijayakrishnan and Catherine Watson. I am grateful to the editors for helpful comments, guidance and direction on the manuscript. All errors are my own.

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