Faculty Publications

Phonetically Motivated Parallels Between Child Phonology And Historical Sound Change

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Language Sciences





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There is a long history of speculation in linguistic about the role of children, i.e., first language learners, in sound change. Many assume that the child is the initiator of sound change. More recently, however, important differences have been brought to light between child language phonology and diachronic phonology, thus calling into question the role of the child language learner in sound change. In this paper, we document several cross-language parallels between phonological processes exhibited by children learning their language and in “adult” phonology, i.e., allophonic variation, diachronic processes, dialect variation, etc. All are processes which can be explained phonetically by reference to acoustic-auditory factors. We argue, however, not that the “adult” sound patterns originated in child phonology, but that both stem from the same underlying physical phonetic causes, i.e., that both child and adult create such sound patterns independently, because they both possess the same phonetic apparatus. The question “who initiates sound change?” cannot, therefore, be answered by citing parallels, or lack of them, between child and adult phonology. Rather, we need to know who is it, child or adult, that is more likely to have his/her pronunciation mistakes copoied by others, in this way leading to a pronunciation change characteristic of a whole linguistic community? © 1981, The International Christian University Language Sciences Summer Institute. All Rights Reserved.. All rights reserved.


Department of English Language and Literature

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