Event Title

To Nose-exhale or Not to Nose-exhale? What Computers Have to Say about the Phonemic Inventory of Icelandic

Research Mentor(s)

Curtis, Emily

Description

Understanding the set of contrasting sounds used by a language is a crucial part of both understanding and studying it. Finding two contrasting sounds — or phonemes — means knowing the difference between ‘arrive’ and ‘alive’, ‘hair’ and ‘pear’, ‘though’ and ‘mow’, for example. As these pairs (so called “minimal pairs”) show, sounds are crucially different from spelling. Identifying minimal pairs within the speech of native speakers can often separate phonemes from circumstantial phonological processes. The phonemes of Icelandic are an inventory that is still up for debate — particularly its liquid and nasal consonants. Two previous methods of analysis of Icelandic’s phonemic inventory have taken an all-or-nothing approach: either include all contested sounds as contrastive phonemes (Maximalist), or treat most of the more similar sounds as non-contrastive (Minimalist). To form a clearer picture of the behavior of these phones (sounds), we created a program in Python to extract minimal pairs from a massive corpus of Icelandic speech, the Hjal Speech Corpus (Rögnvaldsson, 2003). In this project, we detail the previous analyses, describe our method of traversing a large corpus, and identify minimal pair data generated by our program. For some segments under speculation, our program returned minimal pair data which suggests they are contrastive or that there is an underlying morphophonological process happening. The data ultimately seems to suggest that not all of the devoiced sonorants can be considered strictly contrastive or non-contrastive. Further analysis of Icelandic morphophonology could help uncover the underlying processes which neither the Minimalist nor Maximalist approaches seem to elucidate.

Document Type

Event

Start Date

May 2020

End Date

May 2020

Department

Linguistics

Genre/Form

student projects, posters

Type

Image

Rights

Copying of this document in whole or in part is allowable only for scholarly purposes. It is understood, however, that any copying or publication of this document for commercial purposes, or for financial gain, shall not be allowed without the author’s written permission.

Language

English

Format

application/pdf

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May 18th, 9:00 AM May 22nd, 5:00 PM

To Nose-exhale or Not to Nose-exhale? What Computers Have to Say about the Phonemic Inventory of Icelandic

Understanding the set of contrasting sounds used by a language is a crucial part of both understanding and studying it. Finding two contrasting sounds — or phonemes — means knowing the difference between ‘arrive’ and ‘alive’, ‘hair’ and ‘pear’, ‘though’ and ‘mow’, for example. As these pairs (so called “minimal pairs”) show, sounds are crucially different from spelling. Identifying minimal pairs within the speech of native speakers can often separate phonemes from circumstantial phonological processes. The phonemes of Icelandic are an inventory that is still up for debate — particularly its liquid and nasal consonants. Two previous methods of analysis of Icelandic’s phonemic inventory have taken an all-or-nothing approach: either include all contested sounds as contrastive phonemes (Maximalist), or treat most of the more similar sounds as non-contrastive (Minimalist). To form a clearer picture of the behavior of these phones (sounds), we created a program in Python to extract minimal pairs from a massive corpus of Icelandic speech, the Hjal Speech Corpus (Rögnvaldsson, 2003). In this project, we detail the previous analyses, describe our method of traversing a large corpus, and identify minimal pair data generated by our program. For some segments under speculation, our program returned minimal pair data which suggests they are contrastive or that there is an underlying morphophonological process happening. The data ultimately seems to suggest that not all of the devoiced sonorants can be considered strictly contrastive or non-contrastive. Further analysis of Icelandic morphophonology could help uncover the underlying processes which neither the Minimalist nor Maximalist approaches seem to elucidate.