Scharinger, M. (2009). Minimal representations of alternating vowels. Lingua, 119(10), 1414-1425.

Minimal representations of alternating vowels

The representations of morphosyntactic variants with alternating stem vowels have been extensively investigated in theoretical and psycholinguistic accounts. This paper argues for representational minimalism of stem vowels which undergo umlaut (i.e. fronting) in certain morphosyntactic categories (e.g. German plural [¿] vs. singular [] in Stock/Stöcke 'stick'). Vocalic representations are based on phonological feature specifications which determine whether a vowel alternates or not. In particular, it is assumed that umlaut is only possible if the stem vowel is underspecified for dorsality (backness). The umlauted (front) and the non-umlauted (back) vowels are derived via a default coronal fill-in and a specific dorsal fill-in rule. Unlike other models, the feature-based approach does not require an additional floating feature in stem representations nor a separate listing of the umlauted stem variants. Furthermore, the assumptions of the feature-based model lead to concrete predictions for speech perception, which have successfully been tested with psycholinguistic and neurolinguistic methods.


Cognitive and Biological Psychology

University of Leipzig
Faculty of Life Sciences
Institute of Psychology
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Dagmar Schrödl
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Email: dagmar dot schroedl at uni-leipzig dot de

Dorit Thieme
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