Systemic Contrast and Catalan Rhotics

Abstract

It is argued here that an appealing approach to the distribution and behavior of rhotics in Catalan can be had by appealing to the maintenance, and the perceptual goodness, of contrast. Since the Catalan facts are very similar to those of Spanish, the relevance of these ideas to Spanish is also discussed. The analysis is cast within Dispersion Theory (Flemming, Auditory representations in phonology, Routledge, 1995, Flemming, Contrast and perceptual distinctiveness, Cambridge University Press, 2004), in a version following Padgett (Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 21: 39–87, 2003a, The emergence of contrastive palatalization in Russian, Kluwer Academic Press, 2003b). The analysis is interesting because it (i) provides novel insight into the rhotic facts, (ii) extends dispersion-theoretic thinking into the area of consonants, and (iii) contributes to a program of research showing how allophonic generalizations can be explained by appeal to contrast.

 

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