Alternating sounds and the formal franchise in phonology

17 December 2018

Hosted by the Sydney Centre for Language Research

A matter of some controversy in the intersecting worlds of late nineteenth-century linguistics and anthropology was the nature of “alternating sounds”. This phenomenon is the apparent tendency, long assumed to be characteristic of “primitive” languages, to freely vary the pronunciation of words, without any discernible system.

The late nineteenth-century debates surrounding alternating sounds were informed by a number of sources. This talk argues that H. Steinthal‘s writings served as a key point of reference and offered several motifs that were taken up by his scholarly successors. In addition, and most crucially, this talk demonstrates that the positions

at which the participants in these debates arrived were determined not so much by any simple technical disagreements but by underlying philosophical differences and sociological factors. This episode in the joint history of linguistics and anthropology is telling for what it reveals about the dominant mindset and temperament of these disciplines in relation to the formal analysis of the world's languages.

Dr James McElvenny is a Newton International Fellow at the University of Edinburgh. His most recent project is ‘Form and Formalism in Linguistics’.

More information

Please visit bit.ly/alt-sounds

 

Event details

  • When: 3.00pm - 4.30pm
  • Where:

    Seminar Room 105
    Social Sciences Building
    The University of Sydney

    Map

  • Cost: Free
  • Contact:

    Nick Riemer

    nick.riemer@sydney.edu.au



Alternating sounds and the formal franchise in phonology

Where

Seminar Room 105
Social Sciences Building
The University of Sydney

Map

When

17 December 2018


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