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      Nasal place assimilation trades off inferrability of both target and trigger words

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          Abstract

          In English, nasal place assimilation occurs across word boundaries, such as ten bucks pronounced as te[m] bucks. Assimilation can be viewed as a reduction or loss of the assimilation target’s place cue (/n/ in ten), and simultaneously as an enhancement of the assimilation trigger’s place cue (/b/ in bucks) by spreading its place cue earlier in the signal. A message-oriented phonological approach predicts that assimilation is sensitive to the relative contextual inferrability of both the target and trigger words: More assimilation should be observed for more contextually predictable target words, while less assimilation should be observed for contextually more predictable trigger words. These predictions deviate from accounts that view assimilation solely as reduction. To test these predictions, sequences which license assimilation were extracted from a conversational speech corpus. Both categorical assimilation (based on close phonetic transcription) and gradient acoustic assimilation (based on F2) were analyzed. As predicted, assimilation was more likely both when a target like ten was high in predictability and when its trigger bucks was low in predictability. Assimilation thus serves as both reduction and enhancement, and can be used to manage redundancy in the speech signal. More broadly, this constitutes evidence for the influence of communicative pressures on phonology.

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          Informativity affects consonant duration and deletion rates

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            The role of predictability in shaping phonological patterns

            A diverse set of empirical findings indicate that word predictability in context influences the fine-grained details of both speech production and comprehension. In particular, lower predictability relative to similar competitors tends to be associated with phonetic enhancement, while higher predictability is associated with phonetic reduction. We review evidence that these in-the-moment biases can shift the prototypical pronunciations of individual lexical items, and that over time, these shifts can promote larger-scale phonological changes such as phoneme mergers. We argue that predictability-associated enhancement and reduction effects are based on predictability at the level of meaning-bearing units (such as words) rather than at sublexical levels (such as segments) and present preliminary typological evidence in support of this view. Based on these arguments, we introduce a Bayesian framework that helps generate testable predictions about the type of enhancement and reduction patterns that are more probable in a given language.
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              Articulatory evolution

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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Journal
                1868-6354
                Laboratory Phonology: Journal of the Association for Laboratory Phonology
                Ubiquity Press
                1868-6354
                20 September 2018
                2018
                : 9
                : 1
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Department of Linguistics, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, US
                [2 ]Department of Linguistics, Ohio State University, US
                [3 ]Department of Linguistics, University of Canterbury, NZ
                [4 ]Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, University of Rochester, US
                [5 ]Department of Computer Science, University of Rochester, US
                Article
                10.5334/labphon.119
                Copyright: © 2018 The Author(s)

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

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