Timo Roettger, a postdoc in the Linguistics department, will be presenting next week, Jan. 31st at Phonatics. The title and abstract of his talk are below.
Title: The tune drives the text – the role of intonation in linguistic change
Abstract: Segmental and prosodic aspects of speech are often assumed to be independent of each other. For example, the intonation contour of a phrase is thought to be independent of the words that bear it. However, detaching segmental from suprasegmental aspects of speech has led us to largely ignore the intricate interactions between these levels which could potentially inform models of linguistic change. Particularly neglected are functional conflicts in the expression of lexical and intonational meaning, such as conflicts created by the requirement to realise meaningful pitch movements on segments that do not lend themselves to a clear manifestation of these pitch movements. This talk aims at bridging this gap by arguing that intonation poses functional pressure on its segmental environment favouring certain segmental strings over others. It will be argued that the dynamic negotiation between intonation and the segmental string has important implications for some linguistics changes. Although this talk will focus on phonotactic changes, most notably the insertion of vowels, it will be speculated that other aspects of linguistic structure are also impacted by the functional pressure to realise communicatively relevant tonal movements.