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On Fri, 15 Feb 2013 19:05:49 -0500, Alex Fink wrote:

>On Fri, 15 Feb 2013 10:43:08 -0200, Njenfalgar wrote:
>
>>I think there is a universal tendency to drop word-final and syllable-final
>>stuff. :-)
>
>On Fri, 15 Feb 2013 16:52:57 +0000, David McCann wrote:
>
>>Obviously there's a general tendency to simplify syllables to CV, which
>>different languages resist to different degrees. 
>
>There's certainly a pretty strong tendency to these things.  But,
>crosslinguistically, I'd want to ascribe the bulk of it to ultimate
>effects of perceptual factors.  Stops before vowels, e.g., have a
>brilliantly salient and distinctive release burst that's easy to latch
>onto in a speech stream, something which stops after vowels have no
>analogue of.  So it's only natural for a language's speakers to
>generalise this and pay more attention to CV transitions in general
>than VC ones, and as a consequence of this comparative neglect,
>consonants which only have a VC transition -- like final ones -- would
>be subject to more erosion, since it's easier to miss the cues for
>what they are.
>
>One reason I think this is an argument of Blevins, regarding the
>Australian sprachbund, whose languages are barse ackward
>phonologically in a lot of ways: for instance, *initial* consonant
>weakening and loss is extremely common; languages like Arrernte have
>been reasonably analysed as having basic syllable structure VC.  But
>there are other features of the area which suggest that VC transitions
>are more important than CV.  For instance, retroflexion and laminality
>contrasts on consonants (and graveness???), which Australia has in
>spades, are among the few consonantal contrasts which have more
>distinctive effects on a previous vowel than a following.  And
>Australia has lots of non-assimilated nasal plus stop clusters, which
>again aren't so awkward if you're reading the place of the nasal off
>its effects on the previous V.  It's reasonable to think that the VC
>syllable stuff might also be an effect.

That's a most interesting thought. For instance, most German varieties
have a tendency to loose the contrast between homorganic consonants in
medial or VC position (minimal pairs like _Egge--Ecke_ or
_Leiter--leider_ are very rare and tend to be neutralized), while they
are more clearly distinguished in initial or CV position. The opposite
happens in some varieties like Swiss German, which have a tendency to
loose the contrast between homorganic consonants in initial or CV
position, while the contrast is very markedly retained in medial or VC
position (in minimal pairs such as _Schade--Schatte_ or _Hase--hasse_).

Your account (of Blevin's argument -- that would be Juliette Blevins, I
assume?) provides a nice interpretation of this difference: The
aspiration contrast (possibly with some concomitant voicedness
contrast) has more distinctive effects on the following vowel.
Therefore, varieties that have an aspiration contrast (like many German
varieties) have a tendency to retain initial or CV contrasts while
loosing medial or VC contrasts. Varieties with the opposite tendency,
e.g. Swiss German varieties, might have a contrast that has more
distinctive effects on the preceding vowel. The contrast of homorganic
consonants in Swiss German is not based on aspiration or voice, but on
quantity. So I wonder whether consonant quantity is indeed a contrast
that has more distinctive effects on a previous vowel than a following,
just like the Australian retroflexion and laminality contrasts that you
have mentioned. Would you know anything about that?

Finnish seems to be (according to Wikipedia etc.) another language
where the contrast of homorganic consonants is not based on aspiration
or voice, but on quantity. And similar to Swiss German, the contrast
does not occur in initial position, but only in medial position. This
would again be explained by the hypothesis that consonant quantity has
more distinctive effects on a previous vowel than a following.

-- 
grĂ¼ess
mach