Andries Coetzee, University of Michigan

Friday, November 16th, 4pm, Stevenson Fireside Lounge

A lexical route to voicing co-occurrence restrictions: the case of Afrikaans

Many languages have restrictions on the co-occurrence of laryngeally marked segments (such as voiced obstruents, aspirates, glottalized consonants, etc.). Current theories of sound change ascribe the origin of these restrictions either to speaker-oriented articulatory forces (grammaticalization of articulatory simplification) or to listener-oriented perceptual forces (grammaticalization of misperception). In this presentation, I will argue for a third possible source for these co-occurrence restrictions, based on a newly developing restriction in Afrikaans. I will argue that co-occurrence restrictions can also arise via a lexical route. Through the gradual lexical accumulation of sound changes, a pattern consistent with a co-occurrence restriction can accidentally arise in the lexicon of some language. Once the pattern has been lexically established, language users can then elevate the pattern to a grammatical principle via a statistical learning mechanism.

I will first establish the existence of the voicing co-occurrence in Afrikaans relying on the three kinds of evidence: (i) Evidence for the pattern in the Afrikaans lexicon. (ii) The results of a wug-test with Afrikaans speakers. (iii) Evidence from non-standard minority varieties of Afrikaans in which the restriction has been established more firmly than in Standard Afrikaans. I will then trace the developments of the Afrikaans lexicon from Dutch, showing that the lexical pattern in Afrikaans is an accidental side-effect of a series of unrelated sound changes that applied in the development from Dutch to Afrikaans.