Blog Rating

Selected Books by Edmund Blair Bolles

  • Galileo's Commandment: 2500 Years of Great Science Writing
  • The Ice Finders: How a Poet, a Professor, and a Politician Discovered the Ice Age
  • Einstein Defiant: Genius vs Genius in the Quantum Revolution

« Three Mysteries | Main | Summer Over Already? »


jess tauber

Yet there are many harder phonemes in the languages of the world- witness the very complex phones in Northwest Caucasian languages, involving secondary and tertiary articulations, or words in Khoisan languages- clicks are so unnatural that speakers end up with characteristic scars on the back of their throats from wear and tear. And what about glottalized/laryngealized vowels, and so on.

Historical change often bring together features and contrasts that the baby/simple motivation doesn't explain. How can this be?

The answer is COMPETING motivations- simplification in one area may result in complexification in another. Often the competition is between what is paradigmatic (vertical axis/same-time slot) versus syntagmatic (horizontal axis/across-time). Getting rid of a vowel intervening between two consonants simplifies things on the syntagmatic side, but if it ends up wholly or partially merging the consonants into an even more complex single unit, then the paradigmatic complexity increases, as phonemes phonologically are strings or stacks of features.

Comparative work has also shown that such interactions often go hand in hand with changes in the stress marking system, syllable type, word order, etc., though all the rules are not well understood, enough so that these are still typological statistical generalizations. Still there is somthing going on beneath the surface.

Ultimately, if easy/simple was the only motivation, unlinked to anything else, we would end up with no segments at all.

Jess Tauber


In Chinese blog is 博克 (bókè), in Korean it's 블로그 (bŭl-lo-gŭ) and in Japanese it's ブログ(burogu).
BLOGGER: Thank you. I was pretty sure that eventually a visitor would be able to fill in that blank.

Michael Santomauro

Fantastic essay!

The comments to this entry are closed.

Bookmark and Share

Your email address:

Powered by FeedBlitz

Visitor Data

Blog powered by Typepad