Darwin-L Message Log 1:279 (September 1993)

Academic Discussion on the History and Theory of the Historical Sciences

This is one message from the Archives of Darwin-L (1993–1997), a professional discussion group on the history and theory of the historical sciences.

Note: Additional publications on evolution and the historical sciences by the Darwin-L list owner are available on SSRN.

<1:279>From GA3704@SIUCVMB.SIU.EDU  Thu Sep 30 21:36:02 1993

Date: Thu, 30 Sep 93 21:29:35 CST
From: "Margaret E. Winters" <GA3704@SIUCVMB.SIU.EDU>
To: darwin-l@ukanaix.cc.ukans.edu
Subject: Phonological constraints

My name is Geoff Nathan, and I have been reading these debates
over Margaret Winters's shoulder, but as a practicing phonologist
I couldn't help replying to the question of whether the constraints
on sound systems are internally imposed or externally.  If I understand
the question rightly, the answer is that Linguists disagree on this
question.  Some, like myself, consider many of the constraints on
possible sound systems, as well as the constraints on the actual
way that sounds are pronounced (for example, the fact that the
t sound in pretty can be pronounced like a 'd', but that the
k sound in tacky cannot be pronounced like a 'd' (or even like
an analogous sound) are imposed on the speaker by his/her vocal
tract.  The fact that 'dog' is pronounced with a d and a g, of course,
is imposed on the speaker by his/her language.  As is the fact that
the plural of 'foot' is 'feet'.  But the fact that the plural
of 'cat' has an s-sound at the end, but the plural of dog has a
z-sound at the end is again, imposed on the speaker by his/her
vocal tract--it's almost impossible to do it any other way.
I should add that many linguists disagree with this division into
exterally and internally imposed facts--more orthodox generative
grammar would hold that all facts are Internally imposed by some
inherent facts about the mental organization of language.
Those of us who call ourselves Natural Phonologists, however,
make appeal to a contrast between physiologically (and acoustically
driven) constraints and those that are conventionally motivated
(in this context, I guess one should say culturally motivated.)
Thanks for letting me put my two cents'  worth in.
             Geoff Nathan
           (using Margaret Winters's account)

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