15.3603, Diss: Phonetics/Phonology: Sands: 'Patternings...'

LINGUIST List linguist at linguistlist.org
Thu Dec 30 14:13:02 UTC 2004

LINGUIST List: Vol-15-3603. Thu Dec 30 2004. ISSN: 1068 - 4875.

Subject: 15.3603, Diss: Phonetics/Phonology: Sands: 'Patternings...'

Moderators: Anthony Aristar, Wayne State U <aristar at linguistlist.org>
            Helen Aristar-Dry, Eastern Michigan U <hdry at linguistlist.org>

Reviews (reviews at linguistlist.org)
        Sheila Collberg, U of Arizona
        Terry Langendoen, U of Arizona

Homepage: http://linguistlist.org/

The LINGUIST List is funded by Eastern Michigan University, Wayne
State University, and donations from subscribers and publishers.

Editor for this issue: Maria Moreno-Rollins <maria at linguistlist.org>

To post to LINGUIST, use our convenient web form at


Date: 28-Dec-2004
From: Kathy Sands < Kathy_Sands at sil.org >
Subject: Patternings of Vocalic Sequences in the World's Languages

-------------------------Message 1 ----------------------------------
Date: Thu, 30 Dec 2004 09:09:02
From: Kathy Sands < Kathy_Sands at sil.org >
Subject: Patternings of Vocalic Sequences in the World's Languages

Institution: University of California, Santa Barbara
Program: Linguistics Department
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2004

Author: Kathy Lorraine Sands

Dissertation Title: Patternings of Vocalic Sequences in the World's Languages

Linguistic Field(s): Phonetics

Dissertation Director(s):
Carol Genetti
Matthew Gordon
Ian Maddieson

Dissertation Abstract:

The sequencing of vowels and glides in the world's languages is clearly not
arbitrary.  Some vocalic sequences occur with great frequency, others rarely, and
some not at all.  The objectives of this research are to determine patternings of
vocalic sequences in the world?s languages and to provide explanation for these
patternings on the basis of phonetic and phonological motivations. Two
interwoven sonority principles and two principles of Dispersion Theory provide
the theoretical context of explanation.

Most studies of vocalic sequences have focused on diphthongs in a single
language, investigating questions unrelated to sequencing.  Prior cross-
linguistic studies of patternings are few, with limitations in database scope, size,
or reliability.  This study makes a unique contribution in its typological approach
and breadth of scope.  It examines patterns across languages in a representative
database of forty-two languages constructed for this purpose.  It transcends
various diphthong definitions, extends beyond vowels to include glides, and
extends beyond diphthongs to include triphthongs.  The inclusion of these
trivocalics is a particular strength, providing a unique window on the expanded
possibilities of patternings over three positions.

The primary patterns are as follows:  (1) At least one member of each pair of
adjacent vocalics is high, with trivocalic "edge" positions occupied by high
vocalics;  (2) sequences of back rounded vocalics are dispreferred;  (3) trivocalics
which alternate in backness are dispreferred;  (4) the middle element of
trivocalics matches the following vocalic in backness;  (5) sequences which
maximize acoustic distance overall are most preferred.

We find that the strongest principle underlying these patterns is the Dispersion
Theory principle of maximizing distinctiveness.  The more distinctive the vocalics
are from one another, the better.  While both sonority and effort considerations
clearly have an effect in shaping the patternings of vocalic sequences, the best
sequences are those which are most salient for the listener.

This study establishes that Dispersion Theory principles are operative in
syntagmatic data (vowel sequences) as well as in paradigmatic data (vowel
inventories).  This study also suggests that the sonority findings encapsulated by
the Sonority Dispersion Principle may in fact reflect a broader pattern across the
syllable, a 'Distinctiveness Dispersion Principle.'

LINGUIST List: Vol-15-3603

More information about the Linguist mailing list