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2005 LSA Institute Linguistic Society of America









LSA.211 | Loanword Phonology

Michael Kenstowicz
MW 1:00-2:40
location: 32-155
course web site:

With the conceptual shift from rules to a constraints and repair model of sound change, loanword phonology has emerged as a topic of considerable interest. Loanword adaptation is constraints and repairs in real time. In adapting a loan the speaker tries to remain faithful to the source while still making the loan conform to the native language (L1) segment inventory, phonotactic constraints, and prosodic structures. Because inputs of considerable diversity and complexity can be devised, loanword phonology takes on the status of an experiment of nature in allowing us to probe phonological competence. In a significant number of cases adapters converge on a repair strategy that lacks a precedent in the native system and sometimes may even contradict L1 repairs, raising serious learnability puzzles.

The course will address such questions as the following. At what level is adaptation made (phonological or phonetic)? How and where are the notions of phonetic/phonological salience and similarity calculated? What is the role of orthography? What can loanword phonology tell us about general models of faithfulness and sound change? How are loans integrated into the morphophonemic system of the borrowing language? How are loans assigned to particular inflection and gender classes?

After a synopsis of the recent literature, we turn to various case studies of adaptation phenomena. Participants may construct novel corpora, analyze existing ones or design experiments testing on-line adaptations and judgments of similarity.