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Laboratory Phonology

Journal of the Association for Laboratory Phonology

Ed. by Cole, Jennifer

IMPACT FACTOR 2015: 0.667
Rank 85 out of 179 in category Linguistics in the 2015 Thomson Reuters Journal Citation Report/Social Sciences Edition

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Incipient tonogenesis in Phnom Penh Khmer: Computational studies

James P. Kirby
Published Online: 2014-02-19 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/lp-2014-0008


In the colloquial Phnom Penh dialect of Khmer (Cambodian), lexical use of F0 is emerging together with an intermediate VOT category and breathy phonation following the loss of /r/ in onsets (e.g., `teacher' > []). I show how this incipient tonogenesis might arise in a series of computational simulations tracing the evolution of multivariate phonetic category distributions in a population of ideal observers. Acoustic production data from a fieldwork study conducted in Phnom Penh was used as the starting point for the simulations. After establishing that the basic framework predicted relative stability over time, two possible responses to a phonetic production bias were considered: one in which agents correctly identified the source of (and thereby compensated for) the effects of the bias, and one in which agents misattributed the acoustic effects of the bias as a property of the onset. Good qualitative fits to the empirical production data were found for the latter group of learners, while the outcome for compensating learners resembled production data from a related dialect. These results are consistent with the sudden and discontinuous nature of many sound changes, and suggest that what appear to be enhancement effects may also emerge under different assumptions about the number of cue dimensions accessible to or deemed relevant by the learner.

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Published Online: 2014-02-19

Published in Print: 2014-02-01

Citation Information: Laboratory Phonology, Volume 5, Issue 1, Pages 195–230, ISSN (Online) 1868-6354, ISSN (Print) 1868-6346, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/lp-2014-0008.

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