Colloquium: Gillian Gallagher (NYU) March 22

Date & Time: Friday, March 22 at 3:30 pm

Place: Education Building, room 433

Title: Identity bias and phonetic grounding in Quechua phonotactics


Many languages distinguish between identical and non-identical segments with respect to some phonotactic restriction. For example, in several unrelated languages, roots with pairs of non-identical ejectives are unattested while pairs of identical ejectives are common (e.g., Bolivian Aymara t’ant’a ‘bread’ *t’ank’a). In other languages, like Cochabamba Quechua, pairs of non-identical and identical ejectives are both unattested. This talk explores the basis for an identity exemption to phonotactics by testing Quechua speakers’ production and perception of non-identical and identical ejective pairs. If identical pairs of ejectives (or segments in general) benefit from some bias, then this bias should be latent in speakers of languages that don’t grammatically distinguish identical from non-identical ejectives. It is found that Quechua speakers are more accurate at repeating nonce words with pairs of identical ejectives (e.g., p’ap’u) than pairs of non-identical ejectives (e.g. k’ap’u), though no distinction is found in a perception task. These results suggest that identical ejectives have an articulatory advantage over non-identical ejectives. Further evidence that articulation is central to the cooccurrence restriction comes from a production task with real phrases of Quechua. Ejectives can cooccur across word boundaries in Quechua (e.g., misk’i t’anta ‘good bread’), though speakers de-ejectivize one of the two ejectives in phrases of this type at a small but significant rate. Implications of these results for the analysis of cooccurrence restrictions and the role of phonetic effects in the grammar are discussed.

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