Explanatory Adequacy in Phonology: A Deductive Approach to /R/

Eric Russell Webb


This work reexamines phonological variation particular to the /R/ of convergent French, departing from the hypothesis that a deductive approach to this question can offer explanatory advantages. In contrast to data-driven approaches, the productive and receptive characteristics of /R/constitute the foundation for explanation here. This approach is framed by a biomechanical conceptualization of effort and the general principle that, mutatis mutandis,
effort should be reduced or avoided. Contextual oppositions underlie proposed effort-based taxonomies involving the relative effort implied by different outputs, themselves based on observations of the phonetic (productive and perceptual)
quality of these surface segments. These oppositions are subsequently integrated in a productive phonological grammar following Optimality Theory (OT, Prince and Smolen sky 1993), in which constraints are phonetically motivated.
This grammar also highlights the minimal phonological representation characteristic of French fRI. It is posited that this phoneme is specified only for dorsality and continuance, excluding specification for manner (fricative, approximant) and voicing.

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