Lexical and grammatical factors in sound change: A usage-based approach

Collitz Professor: Joan BybeeUniversity of New Mexico

Date: 8/1/2017

2017 Linguistic Institute Public Lecture

The question of whether grammatical or lexical factors can condition or block sound change has been discussed from many perspectives for more than a century without resolution. Here we consider studies of sound change in progress which show that words or phrases that are used frequently in the phonetic environment for change undergo the change before those whose use is less frequent in these contexts. Because words of different categories and with different structures also have different distributions, they may occur preferentially in certain phonetic environments. Thus apparent interference by grammatical and lexical factors can be explained by phonetic factors if we expand our notion of ‘phonetic environment’ to include frequency within the environment for change, which includes the segmental environment as well as factors that affect the degree of prominence a word receives in context.

LSA 2017 - Joan Bybee - Public Lecture August 1st

The 2017 Linguistic Institute at the University of Kentucky Lexington featured seven public lectures by leading linguists in a variety of fields. The videos of the lectures, courtesy of the Institute's techincal team and organizers, are available on the original Institute website and have been generously shared with the LSA.