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Lexical and phonological variation in Russian prepositions*

  • Tal Linzen (a1), Sofya Kasyanenko (a1) and Maria Gouskova (a1)

Abstract

Phonological rules can be variable in two ways: they can apply to a subset of the lexicon (lexical variation), or apply optionally, with a probability that depends on the phonological environment (stochastic variation). These two types of variation are occasionally seen as mutually exclusive. We show that the vowel–zero alternation in Russian prepositions ([s trudom] ‘with difficulty’ vs. [sə stinoj] ‘with the wall’) exhibits both types of variation. In two corpus studies and a nonce-word experiment, we document novel stochastic factors that influence the alternation: similarity avoidance, stress position and sonority profile. These constraints interact additively, lending support to a weighted-constraints analysis. In addition to phonologically determined stochastic variation, we find significant lexical variation: phonologically similar nouns differ in the rate at which they condition the alternation in the prepositions. We analyse this pattern by augmenting the weighted-constraints approach with lexical scaling factors.

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For feedback that has led to many improvements to this work, we would like to thank Lisa Davidson, Gillian Gallagher, Vera Gribanova, Gregory Guy, Alec Marantz and audiences at NYU, Tel Aviv University, SYNC and OCP 10, as well as three anonymous reviewers and the associate editor. We would also like to thank our many anonymous participants on the internet, as well as Anna Aristova, Yevgenia Gouskova, Stephanie Harves, Barbara Partee and Kevin Roon for help with recruiting the participants.

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Lexical and phonological variation in Russian prepositions*

  • Tal Linzen (a1), Sofya Kasyanenko (a1) and Maria Gouskova (a1)

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