The Berkeley Phonetics and Phonology Forum ("Phorum") is a weekly talk and discussion series featuring presentations on all aspects of phonology and phonetics. 

We meet Mondays 12-1pm in 1303 Dwinelle.

Phorum is organized by Andrew Cheng and Alice Shen. Our emails are respectively "andrewcheng" and "azshen" 

Upcoming Talk 

March 19, 2018 - Jochen Trommer1 & Eva Zimmermann2 (1University of Leipzig, 2UBC Vancouver)

"The strength and weakness of tone: A new account to tonal exceptions and tone representations"

In this talk we show that Gradient Symbolic Representations (= GSR; Smolensky and Goldrick, 2016;
Rosen, 2016) open up a new perspective on a variety of central aspects in the phonology of tone: exceptional
triggers and undergoers in tone spreading and association, the representation of multiple tone
heights, and the elusive behavior of contour tones. Based on these phenomena, we argue – dissenting
from earlier applications of GSR to segmental phonology – that gradience is not restricted to inputs, but
may also be retained in outputs.

In the Gradient Symbolic Representations approach, phonological representations may have different
degrees of presence in an underlying form, expressed as numerical activities. Harmony evaluation
is formally modeled inside Harmonic Grammar where constraints are weighted, not ranked (Legendre
et al., 1990). Gradient Symbolic Representations have so far been motivated mainly with segmental phenomena
(such as French liaison). In our talk, we present three case studies applying the framework to
tonal phenomena. In a first case study on Oku (Hyman, 2010), we show that complex representational
assumptions on Grassfield Bantu tones – combinations of tonal subfeatures and floating features – can
be replaced by the assumption that differently behaving High, Low and Mid tones simply have different
gradient activation values for the atomic tone features Low and High. In a second case study based on the
phrasal tonology of the Western Nilotic language Jumjum (Andersen, 2004), we argue that an apparent
underlying contrast between high and falling tones can also be fruitfully reinterpreted as a distinction
between strongly and weakly activated high tones, an analysis which is much less abstract since the
alleged falling tone in most contexts surfaces as High, whereas its Falling realizations are due to independently
motivated additional Low tones (e.g. the utterance-final Low boundary tone). Our third case
study deals with lexical exceptions in the tonology of two varieties of Mixtec (Otomanguean; Pike, 1944;
Mak, 1950; Hunter and Pike, 1969; McKendry, 2013) where both morphemes that unexpectedly don’t
host a floating tone and floating tones that unexpectedly don’t associate to TBU’s can be found. Both
these patterns of exceptional non-undergoers and exceptional non-triggers follow under the assumption
of gradiently active phonological elements that gradiently satisfy/violate markedness constraints: Some
morphemes have tones that are only weakly active (=not a fatal problem for *FLOAT) and others contain
a weakly active TBU (= a dispreferred host for floating tones).

In all three analyses, output gradience, a possibility explicitly rejected in earlier work on GSR, plays
a crucial role.

Spring 2018 Schedule

March 26, 2018 - No Phorum.

April 2, 2018 - Aditi Lahiri (Somerville College, Oxford University)

"Metrical stress: Effects of loans in English"


April 9, 2018 - Melody Dye (UC Berkeley)



April 16, 2018 - Reiko Kataoka & Hahn Koo (San Jose State)

"Comparing malleability of phonetic category between [i] and [u]"


April 23, 2018 - Srikantan Nagarajan (UCSF)

"Imaging brain oscillations in speech and language networks"


April 30, 2018 - Denis Bertet (Université Lumière–Lyon 2, DDL)

"What exactly is the phonological feature [nasality] in Ticuna (isolate, Western Amazonia)?"

Why is *[pã] nowhere to be found on the surface in Ticuna (and more generally Oral Voiceless Stop–Nasal Vowel combinations), if the phonological feature of nasality seems to be a syllabic suprasegment in the language? How to account for the absence of what one could expect to obtain as the realization of /{pa}[+nasal]/? In this talk several hypotheses will be explored in an attempt to understand what phonologically underlies the typologically unusual distribution of nasality observed on the surface in San Martín de Amacayacu Ticuna (Amazonas, Colombia).


Past Talks

March 5, 2018 - Brian Smith (UC Berkeley)

"Surface optimization in English function word allomorphy"

In OT accounts of Phonologically Conditioned Allomorphy (PCA), phonological conditioning is the result of markedness constraints, which favor allomorphs that optimize surface structure (e.g. Mester 1994, Tranel 1996, Mascaró 1996, Kager 1996). For example, the use of an before vowels in English can be analyzed in OT as the result of a high-ranking constraint against onsetless syllables, which militates against a apple (Nevins 2011). The surface optimization approach has been challenged generally by Paster (2006) and Embick (2010) on the basis of languages with non-optimizing patterns of PCA, and the approach has been challenged specifically for English a/an by Pak (2016), who argues that surface optimization can’t account for the use of an before emphatic glottal stop (e.g. an [ʔ] apple, when apple is emphasized) or the use of before pause-fillers (e.g. a… um… apple). In this talk, I argue for a surface optimization analysis of English a/an, using addition data from the variable realization of function words, such as of ([əv]~[ə]), the ([ði]~[ðə])and to ([tu]~[tə]). Using data from the Buckeye corpus (Pitt et al. 2007), I show that all four function words conspire to avoid the same marked structure: a lax vowel followed by a vowel. In addition to conditioning function word allomorphy, the constraint  *Lax-Vowel-Vowel drives glottal stop epenthesis (samba[ʔ]-ing, uh[ʔ]oh), is active in phonotactics (*[bə.o]), and conditions other cases of suffixation (such as –(a)thon and –(a)licious).  Variation in the Buckeye data, both within and across speakers and within and across function words, along with the behavior of function words before pause fillerscan be captured in a weighted constraint model where *Lax-Vowel-Vowel is weighted with respect to constraints that encode the default allomorph for each function word.



A list of previous Phorum talks can be found at the Phorum Archive