Evolutionary Phonology



Evolutionary Phonology is a theory of sound patterns which synthesizes results in historical linguistics, phonetics and phonological theory. In this book, Juliette Blevins explores the nature of sounds patterns and sound change in human language over the past 7000–8000 years, the time depth for which the comparative method is reasonably reliable. This book presents an approach to the problem of how genetically unrelated languages, from families as far apart as Native American, Australian Aboriginal, Austronesian and Indo-European, can often show similar sound patterns, and also tackles the converse problem of why there are notable exceptions to most of the patterns that are often regarded as universal tendencies or constraints. It argues that in both cases, a formal model of sound change that integrates phonetic variation and patterns of misperception can account for attested sound systems without reference to markedness or naturalness within the synchronic grammar.

Copy from http://www.cup.cam.ac.uk/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=0521804280


Content of《Evolutionary Phonology》:

Jason Brown, Department of Linguistics, University of British Columbia
This book is a study of the diachronic and synchronic patterns in phonology. The book consists of 11 chapters.
This book is composed of 3 parts: Preliminaries, Sound Patterns, and Implications. The chapters in Part I: Preliminaries, lay out the general assumptions and outline the theoretical claims of the book. The chapters in Part II: Sound Patterns, address the issues of common and uncommon sound patterns, and how to account for them. The chapters in Part III: Implications, address the issues of Evolutionary Phonology, and what the implications are for synchronic and diachronic phonology, as well as other domains of linguistics.
Part I: Preliminaries
Chapter 1 What is Evolutionary Phonology?: In this chapter, the goals of the book and the notion of Evolutionary Phonology (EP) are outlined. The importance of diachronic studies compared to synchronic studies (which are emphasized more in present works) is stressed, as is the relationship between sound changes and synchronic processes. The different types of explanation in linguistics are discussed, along with the idea that a simpler grammar is one that accounts for more things with less duplication. The working hypothesis of the book is also laid out, namely that “recurrent synchronic sound patterns have their origins in recurrent phonetically motivated sound change” (pg. 8). The chapter then outlines the various possible approaches to explanation: synchronic vs. diachronic, and goal-oriented vs. not goal-oriented. EP is diachronic, and not goal-oriented.
Next, the evolutionary metaphor used in the book is explained. While central to EP is the concept that language change is a form of knowledge transmission across generations without biological change, and the concept of “parallel evolution” is also important, the author warns that EP is not a theory based on natural selection. Finally, the chapter ends on a discussion of markedness and the role of learning (in EP, everything is learned, including phonemic contrasts, phonetic detail, phonotactics, etc.).

Copy from http://camba.ucsd.edu/phonoloblog/index.php/2006/03/11/evolutionary-phonology-review/


Book Review:


'The book contains everything that makes a linguistics book fascinating to read: an overview of the field, a provocative theory for explaining phonological facts, and numerous contemporary and historical examples from a wide sample of languages to support the new theory … As a whole, I think the book makes an interesting contribution to the field of phonology. The theory presented proposes that much of the complexity of human sound systems is due to historical processes that are set in motion by different kinds of misperception, while the actual learning and representations in the mind/brain are relatively simple and general … Blevins' theory does not propose strict formal rules and algorithms to process and learn sound system, but rather a number of mechanisms, heuristics and ways of looking at linguistic phenomena that can be adapted to particular instances … I consider this to be a practical perspective … all in all, I found this book easier to read and less formal than most books on phonological theory … this book is well worth reading for a new perspective on phonology that conforms to the trend towards more data-driven models of language.' Journal of Linguistics

Copy from http://www.cup.cam.ac.uk/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=0521804280


Related Links:

  1. 〈Result in Evolutionary Phonology〉2005 AAAS Meeting, Evolutionary Phonology Symposium
  2. 〈An Overview of Evolutionary Phonology〉   Juliette Blevins
  3. Book comments
  4. Diachronic Phonology From Britannica website



    1. 《Evolutionary Phonology: The Emergence of Sound Patterns》
Last updated 06/12/08