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Colloquium 8 (24th September, 9:30AM): Gillian Gallagher (NYU)

Phonetic variability and natural class phonotactics

The eighth colloquium held at the Department of Linguistics, SNU in 2021 is “Phonetic variability and natural class phonotactics” by Gillian Gallagher.

The speaker currently works at New York University, USA. She acquired her PhD in Linguistics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2010.


Phonological patterns are stated over classes of sounds, usually defined based on a shared phonetic property. Phonetic sound changes and phonetic variation, however, are both extremely common, and easily result in a language showing a phonological pattern over a class of segments that cannot be easily defined given the synchronic phonetic system.

In this talk, I look at such a case in South Bolivian Quechua, where the etymological plain uvular stop /q/ is often lenited to a voiced continuant [ʁ], among several other variants. Despite this change in phonetics, the sound still patterns with the other stops with respect to phonotactic restrictions. Like other stops, this sound is absent from coda position, and like other stops, this sound is prohibited from cooccurring with a following aspirate or ejective.

I present the results of acoustic analysis of spontaneous speech, leading to a description of the lenition pattern across speakers and phonological contexts. I then present the results of an experiment supporting the cognitive reality of phonotactic restrictions on /q/, and explore the consequences of phonetic variation for an inductive learning model of phonotactics.

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