[Lingtyp] papers on non-uniqueness in tone and stress

Greville Corbett g.corbett at surrey.ac.uk
Thu Feb 4 11:23:06 UTC 2021

Hi Adam,

You ask about morphosyntax, and there is indeed analogous discussion about the uniqueness of solutions in feature systems. There have been suggestions that, for instance, PLURAL can be a value of GENDER (in Cushitic), that PERSON is part of the GENDER system (Archi), that NUMBER is part of PERSON (French), and discussion about whether the Russian ADNUMERATIVE is a value of CASE or of NUMBER. I discuss each of these in Features, chap 8, and suggest that in each of these specific instances there is an analysis which is supported by converging arguments (I get off the fence). In brief, a value belongs to just one feature: PLURAL is a value of NUMBER in Cushitic, PERSON is a distinct feature in Archi and French, and the Russian ADNUMERATIVE is part of the CASE system. There are also debates about concurrent vs non-concurrent feature systems; for that see, for instance, Round & Corbett (2017) on Kayardild TAM, and Fedden & Corbett (2017) on gender and classifiers in concurrent systems. The last reference fits your bill best, in that we argue there for ‘in-between’ instances (systems that overlap, to measurable degrees). Hope that helps, Best, Grev

Greville G. Corbett. 2012. Features. Cambridge: CUP.
Sebastian Fedden & Greville G. Corbett. 2017. Gender and classifiers in concurrent systems Refining the typology of nominal classification. Glossa: a journal of general linguistics 2(1): 34. 1–47. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/gjgl.177    [open access]
Erich R. Round and Greville G. Corbett. The theory of feature systems: One feature versus two for Kayardild tense-aspect-mood. Morphology 27.21-75.
http://doi.org/10.1007/s11525-016-9294-3. [open access]

Greville Corbett, Surrey Morphology Group

On 4 Feb 2021, at 11:12, TALLMAN Adam <Adam.TALLMAN at cnrs.fr<mailto:Adam.TALLMAN at cnrs.fr>> wrote:

Hello all,

I'm looking for papers on the notion of non-uniqueness in phonology (or morphosyntax if applicable). I have three so far (Chao, Hockett, and Schane).

I'm particularly interesting in non-uniqueness in the domain of the description of suprasegmentals - like when we have a system that seems to mix tone and (other types of) prominence whether the system should be described as tonal with a stress mapped to it or vice versa. Phonologists discuss the issue as if there is an obvious unique best way of describing such relations in all cases. But I think that's probably false and it choosing one over the other just amounts to an expositional decision - some of  the discussion in Tallman and Elias-Ulloa (2020) point in this direction in Chácobo.

There's also the related issue of when the acoustic correlates of some phonological category are organized in such a way as to genuinely merit the designation "tone". Phonologists seem to assume that this issue is trivial or obvious - again, I think this is probably false (the notion is more open ended than is recognized) regardless of the phonological evidence that can be rallied in support of one position or another.

    title = {The non-uniqueness of phonemic solutions of phonetic systems},
    author = {Yuen Ren Chao},
    journal = {Bulletin of the Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica},
    year = {1934},
    volume = {4},
    number = {},
    pages = {363-397},
    %doi = {},
    %urldate = {},

    Author = {Charles F. Hockett},
    Booktitle = {Universals of language (Volume 2)},
    Editor = {Joseph H. Greenberg},
    Pages = {1-29},
    Publisher = {MIT Press},
    Address = {Cambridge, MA},
    Title = {The problem of universals in language},
    Year = {1963},
    Edition = {}}

    title = {On the non-uniqueness of phonological representations},
    author = {Sanford A. Schane},
    journal = {Language},
    year = {1968},
    volume = {44},
    number = {4},
    pages = {363-397},
    %doi = {},
    %urldate = {},

    title = {The acoustic correlates of stress and tone in Chácobo (Pano)},
    author = {Adam J.R. Tallman},
    journal = {The acoustic correlates of stress and tone in Chácobo (Pano): A production study},
    editor = {Adam J.R. Tallman and José Élias-Ulloa},
    year = {2020},
    volume = {147},
    number = {4},
    pages = {3028},
    doi = {https://doi.org/10.1121/10.0001014},
    %urldate = {2019-07-04},


Adam James Ross Tallman (PhD, UT Austin)
ELDP-SOAS -- Postdoctorant
CNRS -- Dynamique Du Langage (UMR 5596)
Bureau 207, 14 av. Berthelot, Lyon (07)
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