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Phonetic typology and articulatory constraints: The realisation of secondary articulations in Scottish Gaelic rhotics

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<mark>Journal publication date</mark>21/09/2022
Issue number3
Number of pages42
Pages (from-to)419-460
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Much progress has been made in the last 200 years about understanding the origins and mechanisms of sound change. It is hypothesised that many sound changes originate in biomechanical constraints on speech production, or in the misperception of sounds. These production and perception pressures explain a wide range of sound changes across the world’s languages, yet we also know that sound change is not inevitable. For example, similar phonological structures have undergone change in many languages yet remained stable in others. In this study, we examine how typologically unusual contrasts are maintained in the face of intense pressures, in order to uncover the potential biomechanical, perceptual and sociolinguistic factors that facilitate the maintenance of typologically unusual contrasts. We focus on secondary articulation contrasts in Scottish Gaelic rhotics, triangulating auditory, acoustic and articulatory data in order to better understand the maintenance of contrast in the face of multi-dimensional typological challenges. Here, individual-level articulatory strategies are combined with contextual prosodic information in order to maintain acoustic and auditory distinctiveness across three rhotic phonemes. We highlight the need to more comprehensively consider typologically unusual and minority languages in order to test the limits of generalisations about cross-linguistic phonetic typology.