Pfiffner colloquium

September 26, 2022

The 2022-2023 colloquium series continues on Monday, October 3, with a talk by our very own Alexandra Pfiffner, taking place in Dwinelle 370 and synchronously via Zoom from 3:10-5pm. Her talk is entitled "Features, cues, and phonological contrast: A look at plosive voicing in Afrikaans," and the abstract is as follows:

Phonological voicing in obstruents is signaled by numerous acoustic cues, both spectral and temporal. Voicing contrasts have been featurally described as [±voice], [±spread glottis], fortis versus lenis, or a combination of features such as [±spread] and [±slack] vocal folds, depending on the cues utilized in a particular language. The problem that arises is that describing obstruent voicing contrasts with only cues or features, to the exclusion of the other, misses larger cross-linguistic patterns.

In this talk, I examine plosive voicing contrasts and positional neutralization in Afrikaans. Using data from perception and production experiments with native speakers, I show that acoustic cues (that are not necessarily linked to the definition of a distinctive feature) are integral to the realization of phonological contrast. To account for this data and unite the two views on describing voicing contrasts, I propose a new framework of cue-based features.