Cruciality- a link between grammar and the outside world in Natural Phonology

Geoff Schwartz (Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań)

Evidence from psycholinguistics (see Lively, Pisoni and Goldinger, 1994 for a review) is difficult to reconcile with many frameworks' assumption that phonology is an autonomous grammatical module that is immune to external influence. While Natural Phonology (NP) (Donegan and Stampe 1979) recognizes that grammar is subject to grammar-external forces, providing an explicit account of the effects of such forces remains a daunting challenge.

The Source-Filter model of NP (Schwartz 2006) represents an attempt to overcome this challenge by means of two basic strategies. First, it takes a listener-oriented approach in which phonological units must have an auditory specification. Since 'grammar-external' forces influence the realization of an utterance from the Listener's point of view, auditory representations provide a concrete domain to formalize these effects in the grammar. Second, it maintains an explicit distinction between grammar (the traditional domain of NP 'rules') and speech (the domain of universal NP 'processes). The 'grammar' in this model is a speaker-specific interactive inventory of phonological units covering all levels from feature to foot. Each unit in the inventory is specified with Cruciality Ratings for the smaller units it is made of. The Cruciality Ratings specify which elements in a phonological unit are most likely candidates for fortition or most susceptible to lenition. External forces set the Cruciality Level for an utterance, triggering the application of NP processes (fortitions and lenitions) in speech to determine actual realizations.


Donegan, Patricia and David Stampe (1979). The study of Natural Phonology. In D. A. Dinnsen, (ed)., Current Approaches to Phonolgical Theory . Bloomington: Indiana University


Lively, Scott E., David B. Pisoni, and Stephen D. Goldinger (1994). Spoken word recognition - research and theory. In Gernsbacher, Morton Ann (ed.), Handbook of Psycholinguistics . Burlington, MA: Academic Press. 265-301.

Schwartz, Geoffrey (2006). Source-Filter Phonology - A listener-oriented model of Natural Phonology. Poster presented at the Third Old World Conference in Phonology, Budapest.