Phonology and the Basis of Articulation
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Publisher:Ohio State University. Department of Linguistics
Citation:Working Papers in Linguistics, no. 15 (1973), 115-133.
There is a tradition in Europe, going back at least as far as Wallis in the seventeenth century and continued in the work of Sweet, Viëtor, Jespersen, and their contemporaries of what it is to speak like a German, a Frenchman, or an Englishman. It is a tradition still in fashion with language teachers--though to some extent only as a matter of lip-service, since with honorable exceptions (e.g. Malmberg, Delattre) the Basis of Articulation has been largely ignored by theoretical linguists over the past decades. Nevertheless, it is proposed here that the insight central to the notion Basis of Articulation in fact illuminates some important issues in present-day phonological theory, and that the notion itself--although in somewhat modified form--must be revived. First, I shall relate the notion of Basis of Articulation to the wider question of 'preparatory setting' as it bears on the understanding of skilled motor behavior in general: it will become clear that we must consider not only preparatory but also ongoing tendencies, with 'local' as well as universal elements. Second, I shall briefly sketch what modern experimental methods suggest concerning the universal and language-particular elements of the Basis, and give examples from several languages. Third, I shall try to show how these findings mesh in a natural way with, and thus enrich present-day phonological theory. In introducing the notion 'causal unity' into the consideration of phonetic processes, I shall argue that the processes thus provoked or constrained constitute a natural sub-component of the phonology of language, one which ignores the line commonly drawn between competency and performance. I shall, finally, suggest how the child 'acquires' the Basis required by his language, and thereby derive a possible explanation for both the gross similarities and the individual variations of the Basis of Articulation for speakers of the same dialect.