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Open Access Genetic and environmental effects in L1 phonological acquisition

The case of consonant harmony in Greek child speech

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Genetic and environmental effects in L1 phonological acquisition

The case of consonant harmony in Greek child speech

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Consonant harmony (CH) is a phenomenon commonly found in child language. Cross-linguistically, Place of Articulation (PoA), specifically the Coronal Node, undergoes CH, while regressive harmony seems to be the preferred directionality that CH takes (cf. Goad 2001a, b; Levelt 1994; Rose 2000, 2001).

In the present study, drawing on naturalistic data from nine children acquiring Greek L1, we place emphasis on the fact that multiple factors need to be considered in parallel, in order to account for CH patterns: Not only PoA, but also Manner of Articulation (MoA) contributes to CH; consequently, (de)voicing or continuity harmony emerges. Although regressive harmony is generally favoured, markedness scales and word stress highly affect directionality. Coronal, stop and voiceless segments trigger and undergo CH depending on their degree of prominence and their position in the word. Harmony can be partial or full, i.e. either place or manner or both place and manner of articulation are targeted. Progressive harmony emerges when the triggers belong to the stressed syllable or when they are stops. Cases of double, bidirectional and recursive harmony are also reported.

In general, Greek CH patterns are the product of combined factors determined by phonological principles and input frequency in the ambient language. In other words, the degree to which Greek CH patterns are different from cross-linguistic findings depends on the combination of UG principles and language specific/environmental effects, as well as the prominence of certain of these factors over others.


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