Effort management as a lenition/fortition criterion

Małgorzata Kul (Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań)

The aim of the presentation is to revise the current typology of phonological processes. The revision is based on the principle of least effort (Zipf 1949/1972) and seeks to develop the new lenition/fortition criteria.

Firstly, the presentation discusses the current approaches to process typology: the traditional, the Natural Phonology (Donegan – Stampe 1979, Stampe 1973/1979) and the Optimality Theory (Boersma 1998, Kirchner 1998) approaches. The discussion reflects the degree of confusion in the area of process typology. The current approaches do not come to specify explicitly the lenition/fortition criteria. They stipulate the typology on the basis of an automatic, indiscriminate operational procedure: if a segment is deleted, it is lenition, if a segment is added, it is fortition. Next, the presentation redefines lenition/fortition in terms of the principle of least effort. It also proposes to substitute the term “least effort” for “effort management”. Finally, the presentation lists the concrete, specific lenition/fortition processes  (Dziubalska-Kołaczyk 2003, Dressler 1985, Kirchner 1998) and proposes a new typology.

The conclusion is that effort management seems to be a possible candidate for lenition/fortition criteria. It abandons the vexed issue of the weakening/strengthening processes promoted by the traditional approach in favor of conscious, calculated criteria of a process selection. It also departs from the parameters of the biomechanical effort advocated by the OT approach, replacing the parameters of precision, distance, energy etc. with the total cost of a given articulation. Rather, effort management make use of Dressler’s (1985) idea of foregrounding and backgrounding. It means that sounds are obscured or clarified, depending on the total effort cost.


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