Skip to main content

The phonologisation of redundancy: length and quality in Welsh vowels*

  • Pavel Iosad (a1)

‘Phonologisation’ is a process whereby a phonetic phenomenon enters the phonological grammar and becomes conceptualised as the result of categorical manipulation of phonological symbols. I analyse the phonologisation of a predictable phonological pattern in Welsh, with particular attention to identifying criteria for whether phonologisation has occurred. I argue for a model where phonologisation experiences bottom-up and top-down biases. From the bottom up, there is pressure to phonologise phenomena with a categorical distribution; from the top down, there exist formal constraints on featural specification. I focus on the requirement for featural specifications to obey the Contrastivist Hypothesis, which denies that redundant features can be involved in phonological computation, in the context of a framework with emergent features. I suggest that the Contrastivist Hypothesis provides a useful boundary condition for emergent-feature theories, whilst independent phonologisation criteria provide contrastivist approaches with a more solid conceptual underpinning.

Corresponding author
Hide All

Portions of this paper were presented at the 1st Edinburgh Symposium on Historical Phonology, the Edinburgh P-workshop, the GLOW workshop on Phonological Specification and Interface Interpretation (Brussels), the 8th North American Phonology Conference (Montreal), the 21st and 22nd Welsh Linguistics Seminars (Gregynog), the 1st Conference on Linguistic Diversity in Wales (Aberystwyth) and the 24th Manchester Phonology Meeting. Thanks to the audiences at these forums for questions and comments, particularly Gwen Awbery, Ricardo Bermúdez-Otero, Josef Fruehwald, Daniel Currie Hall and Michaela Hejná. For help with fieldwork, thanks to Christine Jones and Mererid Hopwood (University of Wales Trinity Saint David) and Diarmuid Johnson (Menter Rhos-y-Gilwen). At Phonology, a huge thanks to three anonymous reviewers, an anonymous associate editor and the editors for numerous questions and suggestions that have immeasurably improved the paper. All errors of fact or interpretation remain entirely mine.

The appendices referred to in the paper are available as online supplementary materials at

Hide All
Adank Patti, Smits Roel & van Hout Roeland (2004). A comparison of vowel normalization procedures for language variation research. JASA 116. 30993107.
Awbery Gwenllian M. (1984). Phonotactic constraints in Welsh. In Ball & Jones (1984). 65–104.
Awbery Gwenllian M. (1986). Pembrokeshire Welsh: a phonological study. Llandysul: Welsh Folk Museum.
Ball Martin J. & Jones Glyn E. (eds.) (1984). Welsh phonology: selected readings. Cardiff: University of Wales Press.
Ball Martin J. & Williams Briony (2001). Welsh phonetics. Lewiston: Mellen.
Bermúdez-Otero Ricardo (2012). The architecture of grammar and the division of labor in exponence. In Trommer Jochen (ed.) The morphology and phonology of exponence. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 883.
Bermúdez-Otero Ricardo (2015). Amphichronic explanation and the life cycle of phonological processes. In Honeybone & Salmons (2015). 374–399.
Blaho Sylvia (2008). The syntax of phonology: a radically substance-free approach. PhD dissertation, University of Tromsø.
Bloomfield Leonard (1939). Menomini morphophonemics. Travaux du Cercle Linguistique de Prague 8. 105115.
Boersma Paul & Weenink David (2015). Praat: doing phonetics by computer (version 6.0.08).
Botma Bert & van Oostendorp Marc (2012). A propos of the Dutch vowel system 21 years on, 22 years on. In Botma Bert & Noske Roland (eds.) Phonological explorations: empirical, theoretical and diachronic issues. Berlin: de Gruyter. 135154.
Burnham Kenneth P. & Anderson David R. (2004). Multimodel inference: understanding AIC and BIC in model selection. Sociological Methods and Research 33. 261304.
Bye Patrik & de Lacy Paul (2008). Metrical influences on fortition and lenition. In de Carvalho Joaquim Brandão, Scheer Tobias & Ségéral Philippe (eds.) Lenition and fortition. Berlin & New York: Mouton de Gruyter. 173206.
Chomsky Noam & Halle Morris (1968). The sound pattern of English. New York: Harper & Row.
Clements G. N. & Hume Elizabeth V. (1995). The internal organization of speech sounds. In Goldsmith John A. (ed.) The handbook of phonological theory. Cambridge, Mass. & Oxford: Blackwell. 245306.
Cowper Elizabeth & Currie Hall Daniel (2014). ReductiË ad discr~men: where features come from. Nordlyd 41. 145164.
Crosswhite Katherine M. (2000). Vowel reduction in Russian: a unified account of standard, dialectal, and ‘dissimilative’ patterns. University of Rochester Working Papers in the Language Sciences 1. 107171.
Dresher B. Elan (2009). The contrastive hierarchy in phonology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Dresher B. Elan (2014). The arch not the stones: universal feature theory without universal features. Nordlyd 41. 165181.
Dresher B. Elan, Piggott Glyne & Rice Keren (1994). Contrast in phonology: overview. Toronto Working Papers in Linguistics 13. iiixvii.
Dunbar Ewan, Dillon Brian & Idsardi William J. (2013). A Bayesian evaluation of the cost of abstractness. In Sanz Montserrat, Laka Itziar & Tanenhaus Michael K. (eds.) Language down the garden path: the cognitive and biological basis for linguistic structures. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 360384.
Durand Jacques (2005). Tense/lax, the vowel system of English and phonological theory. In Carr Philip, Durand Jacques & Ewen Colin J. (eds.) Headhood, elements, specification and contrastivity: phonological papers in honour of John Anderson. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: Benjamins. 7797.
Ellis Nick C., O'Dochartaigh Cathal, Hicks William, Morgan Menna & Laporte Nadine (2001). Cronfa Electroneg o Gymraeg (CEG): a 1 million word lexical database and frequency count for Welsh.
Grawunder Sven, Asmus Sabine & Anderson Cormac (2015). On the correlation of acoustic vowel and coda duration in modern Welsh C(C)VC monosyllables. In The Scottish Consortium for ICPhS 2015 (ed.) Proceedings of the 18th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences. Glasgow: University of Glasgow.
Hall Daniel Currie (2007). The role and representation of contrast in phonological theory. PhD dissertation, University of Toronto.
Hall Daniel Currie (2011). Phonological contrast and its phonetic enhancement: dispersedness without dispersion. Phonology 28. 154.
Hannahs S. J. (2013). The phonology of Welsh. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Harris John (1994). English sound structure. Oxford: Blackwell.
Honeybone Patrick & Salmons Joseph C. (eds.) (2015). The Oxford handbook of historical phonology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Hyman Larry M. (1976). Phonologization. In Juilland Alphonse (ed.) Linguistic studies offered to Joseph Greenberg on the occasion of his sixtieth birthday. Vol. 2: Phonology. Saratoga: Anma Libri. 407418.
Hyman Larry M. (2013). Enlarging the scope of phonologization. In Yu Alan C. L. (ed.) Origins of sound change: approaches to phonologization. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 328.
Iosad Pavel (2012). Representation and variation in substance-free phonology: a case study in Celtic. PhD dissertation, University of Tromsø.
Iosad Pavel (2017). Welsh vowels. Open Science Framework. Available (February 2017) at
Iosad Pavel (forthcoming). The ATR/Laryngeal connection and emergent features. In Botma Bert & van Oostendorp Marc (eds.) Primitives of phonological structure. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Jakobson Roman, Fant C. Gunnar M. & Halle Morris (1952). Preliminaries to speech analysis: the distinctive features and their correlates. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.
Jones Christine & Thorne David (1992). Dyfed: blas ar ei thafodieithoedd. Llandysul: Gomer.
Jones Glyn E. (1971). Hyd llafariaid yn y Gymraeg. Studia Celtica 6. 175188.
Jones Glyn E. (1984). The distinctive vowels and consonants of Welsh. In Ball & Jones (1984). 4064.
Jones Glyn E. (2000). Iaith lafar Brycheiniog: astudiaeth o'i ffonoleg a'i morffoleg. Cardiff: University of Wales Press.
Kiparsky Paul (2015). Phonologization. In Honeybone & Salmons (2015). 563579.
Kiparsky Paul (forthcoming). Formal and empirical issues in phonological typology. In Hyman Larry M. & Plank Frans (eds.) Phonological typology. Berlin: de Gruyter Mouton.
Kniazev S. V. & Waul'skij E. V. (2007). Genezis dissimiljativnogo jakan'ja (v svjazi s problemoj fonologizacii foneti∏eskix javlenij). Russkij jazyk v nau∏nom osveª∏enii 13. 210224.
Krämer Martin (2012). Underlying representations. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Lewis David Gerwyn (1960). Astudiaeth eirfaol o Gymraeg lafar gogledd-orllewin Ceredigion. MA thesis, University of Wales, Aberystwyth.
Lindblom Björn (1963). Spectrographic study of vowel reduction. JASA 35. 17731781.
Mackenzie Sara (2013). Laryngeal co-occurrence restrictions in Aymara: contrastive representations and constraint interaction. Phonology 30. 297345.
Mackenzie Sara (2016). Consonant harmony in Nilotic: contrastive specifications and Stratal OT. Glossa 1(1):12. 138.
Mayr Robert & Davies Hannah (2011). A cross-dialectal acoustic study of the monophthongs and diphthongs of Welsh. Journal of the International Phonetic Association 41. 125.
Mielke Jeff (2008). The emergence of distinctive features. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Morén Bruce (2001). Distinctiveness, coercion and sonority: a unified theory of weight. New York & London: Routledge.
Morén Bruce (2006). Consonant–vowel interactions in Serbian: features, representations and constraint interactions. Lingua 116. 11981244.
Morris Jonathan (2010). Phonetic variation in North Wales: preaspiration. In Proceedings of the Summer School of Sociolinguistics 2010.
Myers Scott (2000). Boundary disputes: the distinction between phonetic and phonological sound patterns. In Burton-Roberts Noel, Carr Philip & Docherty Gerard (eds.) Phonological knowledge: conceptual and empirical issues. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 245272.
Odden David (2013). Formal Phonology. Nordlyd 40. 249273.
Pearce Mary (2007). ATR allophones or undershoot in Kera? UCL Working Papers in Linguistics 19. 3143.
Pilch Herbert (1958). Das kymrische Lautsystem. Zeitschrift für vergleichende Sprachforschung auf dem Gebiete der indogermanischen Sprachen 75. 2457.
Prince Alan & Smolensky Paul (1993). Optimality Theory: constraint interaction in generative grammar. Ms, Rutgers University & University of Colorado, Boulder. Published 2004, Malden, Mass. & Oxford: Blackwell.
R Core Team (2016). R: a language and environment for statistical computing. Version 3.2.4. R Foundation for Statistical Computing. Vienna, Austria.
Scheer Tobias (2011). A guide to morphosyntax–phonology interface theories: how extra-phonological information is treated in phonology since Trubetzkoy's Grenzsignale. Berlin: De Gruyter Mouton.
Scobbie James M. (2007). Interface and overlap in phonetics and phonology. In Ramchand Gillian & Reiss Charles (eds.) The Oxford handbook of linguistic interfaces. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1752.
Sommerfelt Alf (1925). Studies in Cyfeiliog Welsh: a contribution to Welsh dialectology. Oslo: I Kommission hos Jacob Dybwad.
Strycharczuk Patrycja (2012). Phonetics–phonology interaction in pre-sonorant voicing. PhD dissertation, University of Manchester.
Thomas Alan R. (1960). Ffonemau llafarog tafodiaith Dyffryn Wysg. Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies 18. 265270.
Thomas Alan R. (1961). Ffonemau cytseiniol tafodiaith Dyffryn Wysg. Bulletin of the Board of Celtic Studies 19. 193201.
Thomas Alan R. (1966). Systems in Welsh phonology. Studia Celtica 1. 93127.
Thomas Ceinwen H. (1993). Tafodiaith Nantgarw: astudiaeth o Gymraeg llafar Nantgarw yng Nghwm Taf, Morgannwg. Cardiff: University of Wales Press.
Torres-Tamarit Francesc (2015). Length and voicing in Friulian and Milanese: or why rule-free derivations are needed. NLLT 33. 13511386.
Watkins Arwyn T. (1967). Some phonological features of the Welsh dialect of Llansamlet (West Glamorgan). In Meid Wolfgang (ed.) Beiträge zur Indogermanistik und Keltologie: Julius Pokorny zum 80. Geburtstag gewidmet. Innsbruck: Sprachwissenschaftliches Institut der Universität Innsbruck. 315322.
Wells John C. (1979). Final voicing and vowel length in Welsh. Phonetica 36. 344360.
Wmffre Iwan (2003). Language and place-names in Wales: the evidence of toponymy in Cardiganshire. Cardiff: University of Wales Press.
Wmffre Iwan (2007). Review of Ball & Williams (2001). Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie 55. 301307.
Wood Simon N. (2006). Generalized additive models: an introduction with R. Boca Raton: Chapman & Hall/CRC.
Recommend this journal

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

  • ISSN: 0952-6757
  • EISSN: 1469-8188
  • URL: /core/journals/phonology
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
Type Description Title
Supplementary Materials

Iosad supplementary material
Iosad supplementary material

 PDF (465 KB)
465 KB


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 15
Total number of PDF views: 98 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 262 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 5th May 2017 - 23rd November 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.