Grimm's Law as a Response to Functional Asymmetry

Harold Paddock


Guided by principles such as those of economy and symmetry, both major schools of modern phonology (structuralist and generativist) have tended to distinguish too sharply between the paradigmatic and syntagmatic functions of phonological features. In addition, both types of phonology have tended to undervalue the functions of features which
could be classified as having syntagmatic functions only. In structural phonology such features were regarded as merely allophonic; in generative phonology they were classified as purely redundant. Redundancy, however, performs the essential function of insurance in human speech (Fry 1977: 75-89)-synchronically, it offsets all types of what is called
NOISE in communication theory (Cherry 1966); diachronically, it permits orderly changes from one phonological stage to another. Redundancy, in other words, helps us solve what Weinreich et al. (1968) called the transition problem in historical linguistics. Finally, the fact is that phonological features normally have both syntagmatic and paradigmatic functions, and that it is not always obvious which of these two functions is primary and which is secondary.

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