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TOPIC 3: NATURAL CLASSES, NATURAL RULES, RULE ORDERING



NATURALNESS IN PHONOLOGY

Natural Classes

Language sounds fall into natural classes according to their articulatory and/or acoustic
properties. We name these properties using features like [labial], [voiced], [high],
[strident]. We can define a natural class as follows:

natural class: A group of language sounds that share a phonetic feature or (usually
small) set of features that no other sounds in the language share.

Examples that we have seen:

ENGLISH VELAR FRONTING
[+velar]: - fronting applies not just to /k/, but to all velars, i.e. /k, g, !/
- fronting does NOT affect other consonants, e.g. /t, d/
[+front]: - velar fronting takes place before all front vowels, not just /i/
- velar fronting does NOT take place before non-front vowels

PAPAGO PALATALIZATION

!
"
#
$
%
&
+
+
alveolar
stop
,
!
"
#
$
%
&
+
+
al alveopalat
stop
: palatalization turns /t, d/ into affricates [t
!
!, d
!
"]
palatalization does NOT apply to [-stop] or [-alveolar]
[t
!
!#posid] to brand, [d
!
"usukal] type of lizard, not *[t
!
!#po!id], *[d
!
"u!ukal]
[d!"uki] rain, [t
!
!uagia] net bag, not *[ d!"ut
!
!i], *[t
!
!uad
!
"ia],

[+high]: palatalization applies before all and only the vowels /i, #, u/

LANGO SPIRANTIZATION

!
!
"
#
$
$
%
&+
long -
voice -
stop
,
!
!
"
#
$
$
%
&'
long -
voice -
stop
: all simple voiceless stops become non-stops in / V___V
Compare: [!xb] I said, [gdo!] to build, [!! " d! "] I beat, [bwg] young

What do these forms tell us about our natural class?

Where natural classes operate

INPUT SEGMENTS: English velars, Papago alveolar stops, Lango voiceless stops
TRIGGER SEGMENTS: English front vowels, Papago high vowels
OUTPUT SEGMENTS: English fronted velars, Papago alveopalatal affricates, Lango
fricatives

Linguistics 120A 3. Natural Classes, Natural Rules, Rule Ordering 24
Natural Processes = Natural Rules

Question: Why do we not say that

English /k! / ! [k] / ___ #, $, %, l?
Papago changes alveopalatal affricates to alveolar stops before non-high vowels?
Lango changes fricatives into stops when geminate or at word boundaries?

Answer: In general, we expect phonological rules to have natural motivations. But
how do we know what is natural?


WHAT MAKES PHONOLOGICAL RULES NATURAL?

Part of understanding phonology is understanding why certain processes are natural
and others are not. It cannot be an accident that certain processes (= rules) operate in
virtually the same way in thousands of languages and other processes are rarely, if ever
found in languages. There is not one simple explanation for why this is soall the
articulatory and perceptual aspects of language come into play. Nonetheless, we can list
some of the most common natural processes and provide a rudimentary explanation for
their frequency and, by implication, the rareness of the opposite processes. Below are
some widespread natural phonological processes. The opposite processes would
(probably always) be unnatural, for example, it would not be natural for voiced sounds to
become voiceless between vowels or for fricatives to become stops between vowels.

CONSONANTS

NATURAL PROCESS TOWARD EXPLAINING WHAT IS NATURAL
(1) INTERVOCALIC VOICING
{f, s, x} ! [v, z, $] / V__V

(somewhat less common)
{p, t, k} ! [b, d, g] / V__V
Voiceless fricatives become voiced between
vowels. Somewhat less common, voiceless stops
become voiced between vowels. Presumably the
obstruents take on the voicing quality of the
surrounding vowels.
(2) INTERVOCALIC SPIRANTIZATION
{b, d, g} ! [%, &, $]

(somewhat less common)
{p, t, k} ! [f/', (/s, x]
Voiced stops become fricatives between vowels.
Somewhat less common, voiceless stops become
voiceless fricatives. This has sometimes been
characterized as assimilation to the [+continuant]
feature of vowels, but more likely is failure to
quite make the oral closure for the stop in
transitioning from one vowel to the next. (In
practical terms, maybe this is what assimilation
to the [+continuant] feature means!)
(3) INTERVOCALIC SONORIZATION
{b, d, g} ! [w, ), w] / V__V

(somewhat less common)
{p, t, k} ! [w, ), w ~ h] / V__V
Related to INTERVOCALIC SPIRANTIZATION is
INTERVOCALIC SONORIZATION. Sometimes they
will be mixed, for example, in Kuria, /b/ ! [%]
whereas /d/ ! [)]. The explanation for
sonorization is probably the same as for
spirantization, that is, failure to quite make oral
closure between the vowel, but in sonorization
the oral constriction is even weaker than for
spirantization.
Linguistics 120A 3. Natural Classes, Natural Rules, Rule Ordering 25
(4) FINAL DEVOICING
{b, d, g, v, z, $} !
[p, t, k, f, s, x] / __]
word

Voiced obstruents become devoiced at the end of
a word. Much less commonly, sonorant
consonants devoice. No one has come up for a
really good explanation for why this process is so
widely attested. It seems to have to do with the
extra effort required to sustain voicing of an
obstruent when not transitioning to a following
vowel.
(5) OBSTRUENT VOICING ASSIMILATION
[-sonorant] ! [!voice] / __

!
-sonorant
"voice
#
$
%
&
'
(
Example: /b/ ! [p] / __t
/p/ ! [b] / __d
(An obstruentstop, fricative, affricate
becomes voiced before a voiced obstruent
and voiceless before a voiceless obstruent.)
It is uncommon for languages to tolerate a
sequence of two obstruents that disagree in
voicing. If this takes the form of an active
process, it is almost always the first one that
assimilates to the second one (regressive
assimilation). The motivation is clearly that it is
hard to make a transition in voicing over the short
duration that obstruents usually have, so the first
consonant anticipates where the sequence will
end up in terms of the [voice] feature.
(6) (a) PALATALIZATION (CORONALS)
{t, d} ! [t
!
!, d
!
"] / __{i, e}
{s, z} ! [!, "] / __{i, e}

(b) PALATALIZATION (VELARS)
{k, g} ! [t
!
!, d
!
"] / __{i, e}
Both alveolar and velar consonants often become
alveopalatal affricates before front vowels. This
is a natural assimilation. For front vowels, the
middle of the tongue is drawn toward the palate.
Anticipation of the vowel causes the tongue to be
drawn back of the normal position when aiming
for an alveolar and to be drawn forward when
aiming for a velar. Back and low vowels have
much less tendency to draw the tongue away
from its normal consonant position, which
explains why, for example, alveopalatals do not
become velars before back vowels.
(7) FRICATIVE FORMATION
/t
!
!, d
!
" / ! [!, "]
Affricates tend NOT to become plain stops, but it
is not uncommon for affricates to become
corresponding fricatives. One can imagine
reasons for why this is natural, for example the
stop closure is not entirely completed before
entering the fricative release of the affricate.
Fricatives tend NOT to become affricates, with
one exception: a fricative following a nasal often
becomes affricated, as in English
fence /f*ns/ ! [f*nt!s]
The reason for this is that there must be an oral
closure for the nasal, and this closure lags into the
obstruent after the velum is raised.
(8) NASAL ASSIMILATION
[+nasal] ! [m, n, +] / __{p, t, k}

Or, stated more generally, a nasal assimilates
to the point of articulation of a following
consonant (usually an obstruent or another
nasal).
This is one of the most widespread phonological
processes across the languages of the world. The
natural motivation is clear: the nasal consonant
anticipates the place of articulation of the
following consonant, and dropping the velum
before pronouncing the following consonant then
raising it for the oral consonant is enough to
maintain the nasal+consonant sequence.
(9) DEGEMINATION
C
i
C
i
! C
i

A double or long consonanta geminate
becomes pronounced as a single or short
consonanta singleton. Many languages do
not like long consonants. For example, English
innumerable is derived from in- not +
numerable. but the resulting double nn- is
reduced to [n].
Linguistics 120A 3. Natural Classes, Natural Rules, Rule Ordering 26
VOWELS

NATURAL PROCESS TOWARD EXPLAINING WHAT IS NATURAL
(10) VOWEL ELISION
V ! / __V
Many languages do not like sequences of vowels
(vowel hiatus), at least when the vowels form
separate syllable peaks. Articulatorily, it seems
more difficult to mark separate syllables by just
an effort of the intercostal muscles than to
constrict the air stream with an articulator like the
tongue or lips. Perceptually, it is more difficult to
hear separate syllables without the cues provided
by constrictions in the air stream. Languages
differ widely in details of vowel elision. The
most common process seems to delete the first
vowel, but often it makes a difference what the
vowel combination is as to which vowel is
deleted, for example, a language may prefer to
keep /a/ over other vowels regardless of whether
/a/ is first or second.
(11) GLIDE FORMATION
{i, u} ! [j, w] / __V

Somewhat less common
{e, o} ! [j, w] / __V
Non-low vowels often become the corresponding
glides when they precede another vowel. This is
an alternative process to VOWEL ELISION as a way
to avoid vowel hiatus. Some languages use both
processes, with the choice depending on the
particular vowel combination.
(12) VOWEL COALESCENCE
{ai, au} ! [e, o]
{aj, aw} ! [e, o]
It is common for sequences of vowels (or
combinations of vowels and glides) to merge, or
coalesce to form monophthongs. The most
common are those to the left, but many others
also occur.
(13) EPENTHESIS
! , / #C_C, C_C#, C_CC, etc.
Two processes, epenthesis and syncope, are very
common ways that languages use to make good
syllables. Epenthesis is the insertion of a vowel
to break up sequences of consonants. The
schema to the left is common, that is, inserting a
schwa to break up a sequence at the beginning or
end of a word or to prevent three consonants from
coming together. Languages vary widely as to
the types of consonant sequences they (dis)allow
and the vowels that they epenthesize.
(14) SYNCOPE
V ! / VC__CV
Syncope is the deletion of a vowel from the
middle of a word to allow consonants to come
together if the syllables created would be
acceptable. The environment to the left is by far
the most common. Note that the result will be a
sequence VCCV, that is, a sequence of just two
consonants bracketed by vowels.
(15) VOWEL ASSIMILATION TO C
/a/ ! [*] / t
!
!__
/a/ ! [-] / f__
Consonants can affect the pronunciation of
vowels. The rules to the left are just examples,
the first showing a low central vowel being drawn
frontward after a palatal consonant, the second
showing rounding of a low vowel after a labial.
Languages vary widely as to the vowels that
might be affected and the position and range of
consonants that might condition the changes.
Linguistics 120A 3. Natural Classes, Natural Rules, Rule Ordering 27
(16)
(a) VOWEL TO VOWEL ASSIMILATION
/a/ ! [&] / __Co
/'/ ! [i] / __Ci

(b) VOWEL HARMONY
(ROUNDING HARMONY)
SUFF. /bE/: tati-be
totu-b
([ATR] HARMONY)
SUFF. /bE/: toti-be
t&t.-b*
(c) UMLAUT
/musi/ ! [mysi]
/mase/ ! [m(se]
Vowels assimilating to each other, usually within
a word, is common.
VOWEL TO VOWEL ASSIMILATION is a general term
referring to assimilation involving particular
vowels, for example, a /,/ might become [u] if
the next syllable contains a [u].
VOWEL HARMONY as a term for a phonological
process should be restricted to cases where a
language has two sets of vowels, say, [+round]
and [-round] (as in Hungarian) or [+ATR] and
[-ATR] (as in Akan), and all the vowels in a
word must be from one set or the other. Vowel
Harmony is generally a pattern of word
formation rather than a phonological
assimilation process, though it probably
originates in assimilation that has become
grammaticalized.
UMLAUT refers specifically to fronting a vowel
when the next syllable contains a front vowel,
as in German Not [not] need, Nte [nt,]
needs. The term umlaut is generally used
only for Germanic languages, and, like Vowel
Harmony, most cases of Umlaut are no longer
active assimilation processes but have become
associated with particular words or word
classes.



RULE INTERACTIONS

Rule Ordering and Derivations

Sometimes independently needed rules interact such that one rule has to apply to the
output of another in order to correctly account for the ultimate phonetic output.

ENGLISH BACK VOWEL DIPHTHONGIZATION and VELAR ASSIMILATION

ENGLISH BACK VOWEL DIPHTHONGIZATION: /u, o/ ! [u, o] / ___)
[!"u, !" o] elsewhere
VELAR ASSIMILATION (illustrated w. /k/): /k/ ! [k! ] / ___front vowels
[k! ] / ___back rounded vowels
[k] elsewhere
Other rules: /l/ VELARIZATION, ASPIRATION

Here are two English words, their phonemic (= underlying) forms, and their phonetic
forms:

Coke: /kok/, [k*!" ok]
coal: /kol/, [k! *o)]

Propose a way to derive the phonetic forms from the underlying forms.

Linguistics 120A 3. Natural Classes, Natural Rules, Rule Ordering 28
HAUSA PALATALIZATION, VOWEL SHORTENING, AND VOWEL LOWERING

Palatalization:
!
"
#
$
%
&
alveolar
obstr d glottalize - non
!
!
"
#
$
%
&
al alveopalat
affricate
/___
!
"
#
$
%
&
front
V

/ ja! g!de! m/ ! [ja! g!d"+e! m] he inherited-from us (cf. ga, do, inheritance)

Vowel Shortening:
!
"
#
$
%
&
+ long
V
!
!
"
#
$
%
&
long -
V
/ ___C
!
"
#
$
%
&
#
C

/gida, + n + s/ ! [gidans] his house (house + of + him)

Vowel Lowering:
!
!
"
#
$
$
%
&
long -
mid
V
! [low] / ___C
/tlo-tlo/ ! [tlatlo] turkey
/k-e, + n + s/ ! [k-ans] his dog (dog + of +him)

Underlying /ja! g!de! + "/ he inherited from me
(1) Palatalization ja! g!d"+e! + "
(2) Vowel Shortening ja! g!d"+e!
(3) Vowel Lowering ja! g!d"+a!
Output [ja! g!d"+a!]

(1) and (2) could apply in either order, but (3) must apply after both (1) and (2). TRY
OTHER ORDERS AND SEE WHAT THE OUTPUT WOULD BE!


Free Variation-optional rules (Hayes, pages 58-61)

ENGLISH (UN)RELEASED FINAL STOPS

pat ! [p/0t1] or [p/0t] (obligatorily? ! [p/0t/])
pad ! [p/0d1] or [p/0d]

MIYA FINAL NASAL VARIATION

[nasal] ! [labial] ~ [alveolar] / ___#

/tm/ ! [tm] ~ [tn] nose (cf. plural [tmamw] only)
/p! " pn/ ! [p! " pm] ~ [p! " pn] cave (cf. plural [p! " pnanw] only)

NOTE: Free variation in application of phonological rules is distinct from rival
phonemic forms.

either ! /2i&/ ~ /!a! 3&/
often ! /!!fn" / ~ /!4ft/#n/


Linguistics 120A 3. Natural Classes, Natural Rules, Rule Ordering 29
Discussion Problems for Natural Classes

Cantonese palatalization
In a practice problem for section 2, we saw the following complementary distribution
data for Cantonese palatalization:
1. t
!
!i ! Chinese characters *t!si
2. t
!
!/i ! time, occasion *t!s"i
3. t
!
!y ! pig *t!sy
4. t
!
!/y ! place *t!s"y
5. t!se " borrow/lend *t! .e
6. t
!
s"e # car *t! .*e
7. t
!
!5n 6 allow *t!s
8. t
!
!/5n 7 stupid *t!s"
9. t
!
su, t
!
s"u (do not exist)
10. t
!
so 7 left (side) *t! .o
11. t
!
s"o # wrong *t! .*o
12. t
!
san 7 measure word for lamp *t! .a
13. t
!
s"a # bad *t! .*a
14. si ! poem *.i
15. !y ! book *sy
16. se ! extravagant *.e
17. s5n ! fast *.
18. su (does not exist)
19. so ! comb *.o
20. sa ! sand *.a
21. tin ! mad
22. t!in " sky
23. tyn 7 short
24. t/yn 6 sever
25. te ! daddy
26. t!e" # listen
27. lyn ! messy
28. kin ! resolute
29. k!in " reverent
30. k!yn " authority
31. kyn ! donate
32. pin ! margin
33. p!in " knit
34. py, p/y (do not exist)
Linguistics 120A 3. Natural Classes, Natural Rules, Rule Ordering 30
NOTE ON THE CANTONESE DATA: There seems to be a fair amount of variation across
speakers, even those from Hong Kong. The unstarred and starred variants are those
reported by Marissa Tse in the 120A paper referenced in the footnote on page 19.
However, Hiu Wai Irene Lam, in a recording made in April 2011, seems to show a
different distribution for words beginning in [ts ~ ts* ~ t. ~ t.*]. Finally, Christopher
Fung, in a 120A paper, described data from two speakers who seem to differ from both
those mentioned above!

1. Natural class of undergoers

(a) How would you group all and only the consonants that undergo palatalization as a
natural class?


(b) The triggers for palatalization get a bit messy in terms of natural class. List the
environments that trigger palatalization of /t!s, t!s"/, the ones that do not, and state the
almost natural class that groups them. Then identify the problem. How does /s/ fit into
this picture?


English Velar Assimilation

Recall that velar consonants in English (and probably most languages) assimilate to
neighboring vowels. We have found that English velars assimilate to both preceding and
following vowels, but when the preceding and following environments conflict, the
following environment wins. Thus, we have the following realizations:

kiss: /k/s/ ! [k! /s]
coast: /kost/ ! [k! ost]
seek: /sik/ ! [sik! ]
soak: /sok/ ! [sok! ]
soaking: /sok/0/ ! [sok! /0]
Seiko: /seko/ ! [sek! o]
Assume the following rules: /k/ ! k! /
!
"
#
$
%
&
+ front
V
___
/k/ ! k! / ___
!
"
#
$
%
&
+ front
V

/k/ ! k! /
!
"
#
$
%
&
+ back
V
___
/k/ ! k! / ___
!
"
#
$
%
&
+ back
V


Account for the phonetic outcomes from the underlying forms above using these rules
and rule ordering.


Linguistics 120A 3. Natural Classes, Natural Rules, Rule Ordering 31
Korean verb suffixes and roots

(1) Deferential ending: Korean has an ending that can be added to verbs to indicate a
deferential attitude toward the listener (for example, the announcements at the airport
about unattended packages, etc. are filled with verbs bearing this ending). The ending
has two forms, seen in GROUP 1 and GROUP 2.

NOTE ON WRITING: The ways the words are written here does not reflect the actual pronuciation after all
phonological rules have applied. In particular, all stops are voiced between vowels and a stop before a
nasal assimilates to the nasal. Thus, for example, the deferential form for go in GROUP 2 is phonetically
[kamnida]. For this problem, however, we are concerned with just two phonological processes, which are
unaffected by and do not interact with these other processes. The words are therefore written in a way to
draw attention to the phonological aspects of interest here.

GROUP 1 GROUP 2
Citation Deferential Citation Deferential
ipta ips8pnita wear clothes kata kapnita go
patta pats1pnita get hata hapnita do
n1t!.ta n1ts1pnita be late pota popnita see
makta maks1pnita obstruct peta pepnita be used to
usta uss1pnita laugh t!.*ita t!.*ipnita hit
kamta kams1pnita close t!.*uta t!.*upnita dance
sinta sins1pnita wear shoes s!s1ta s!s1pnita use

Formulate a deletion rule, making reference to natural classes of segments in the verb
roots, that will will relate the two forms of the deferential ending.


(2) Phonological change of verb roots: Korean has many verb endings showing
modalities, speaker attitudes, and the like. These endings can create a variety of
phonological environments for the roots that they are attached to. Below are two tables
showing several verbs with some of the available endings. PAY SPECIAL ATTENTION TO
THE FORMS OF THE VERB ROOTS ABOVE AND BELOW THE HEAVY LINE IN THE RIGHT HAND
COLUMN OF EACH TABLE.

NOTE ON WRITING: As already mentioned above, the transcription here does not fully reflect the actual
pronunciation. In addition to the rules already mentioned, the phoneme written l here is pronounced [-]
between vowels.

go get take on know
Citation form kata patta anta alta
Non-past polite kajo patajo anajo alajo
and DOES kako patko anako alko
of course DOES kat! .ijo patt! .ijo ant! .ijo alt!.jo
if DOES kamj&n pat1mj&n an1mj&n almj&n
revered subject DOES kasejo pat1sejo an1sejo asejo
Linguistics 120A 3. Natural Classes, Natural Rules, Rule Ordering 32
surprisingly DOES kanejo patnejo annejo anejo
should DO? kalk!kajo? pat1lk!kajo? an1lk!kajo? alk!kajo?

hit be late wear shoes be tall
Citation form t!.*ita n1t!.ta sinta kilta
Non-past polite t!.*&jo n1t!.&jo sin&jo kil&jo
and DOES t!.*iko n1t!.ko sinko kilko
of course DOES t!.*it!.ijo n1t!.t!.ijo sint! .ijo kilt! .ijo
if DOES t!.*imj&n n1t!.1mj&n sin1mj&n kilmj&n
revered subject DOES t!.*isejo n1t!.1sejo sin1sejo kisejo
surprisingly DOES t!.*inejo n1t!.nejo sinnejo kinejo
should DO? t!.*ilk!kajo? n1t!.1lk!kajo? sin1lk!kajo? kilk!kajo?

(a) Formulate a deletion rule that will account for the two forms of the roots seen in the
verbs know and be tall. Refer to a natural class in the triggering environment: you
will have to mention both place and manner of articulation.


(b) In the verbs in the two middle columns, a [1] shows up before the endings for if
DOES, revered subject DOES, and should DO. State what might account for this
[1] INSERTION in terms of the natural class of the final sounds of the roots of these verbs.


(3) Deferential endings and rule ordering: Here are the verbs from the two tables from
part (2) with the deferential ending seen in part (1).

Citation Deferential
patta pats1pnita get
anta ans1pnita take on
n1t!.ta n1ts1pnita be late
sinta sins1pnita wear shoes
kata kapnita go
t!.*ita t!.*ipnita strike
alta apnita know
kilta kipnita be tall

Use rules you formulated for parts (1) and (2) plus rule ordering to account for the forms
in the heavy box. Show how one order predicts the existing forms but the opposite order
predicts incorrect forms.