Labial palatalization in dialectal Polish: On phonetic naturalness in grammars

Bartłomiej Czaplicki 1
  • 1 Warsaw University, Warsaw, Poland


It is argued that a universal hierarchical organization of features based on phonetic criteria is not a property of mental grammars. Hardening of the palatal glide in the context of labials gave rise to synchronic alternations in dialectal Polish that cannot be generated under analyses that relate structural complexity to phonetic factors. Theories that propose a phonetically-based hierarchical organization of features (various models of feature geometry) are shown to be inadequate because they fail to predict the existence of diverse palatalization patterns within one linguistic system. It is argued that an account of labial palatalization must rely on language-specific generalizations extracted from the data. Two approaches are consistent with this claim: an analogical approach and a substance-free geometrical approach. The proposed analogical analysis employs phonetically-neutral generalizations manipulating segments and the substance-free analysis makes use of Optimality Theoretic constraints that refer to a hierarchy of features established on a language-particular basis.

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