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  • Print publication year: 2006
  • Online publication date: September 2009

3 - Markedness reduction


The visibility of markedness reduction

Marked elements can be singled out for preservation, so obscuring the effects of markedness reduction. Consequently, markedness effects are only clearly visible when preservation is irrelevant. The aim of this chapter is to identify such situations. In addition, it shows that there are many interacting markedness hierarchies, some of which conflict. Consequently, a variety of segments can have ‘least marked’ status.

Section 3.2 identifies the most obvious situation in which preservation is irrelevant: when there is nothing to preserve. The empirical focus is consonant epenthesis (e.g. McCarthy & Prince 1994; Lombardi 2002). Epenthesis describes a situation where there is a segment in the output form that does not correspond to any input element. Rice (1989:133) identifies a case in Hare Slave: underlying /icẽ/ ‘we sing’ surfaces as [hicẽ] in order to avoid a ban on onsetless syllables (cf. /t-icẽ/ → [ticẽ] ‘we start to sing’, *[thicẽ], *[thicẽ]). Once influences like assimilation and dissimilation are put aside, the form of epenthetic consonants clearly shows the influence of markedness hierarchies such as place of articulation, voice, and sonority. Because markedness hierarchies can conflict, there is a range of possible epenthetic consonants. However, all hierarchies agree to the extent that many consonants can never be epenthetic.

Section 3.3 shows that preservation is also irrelevant in determining the output of neutralization. Consequently, neutralization only ever produces unmarked outputs (Trubetzkoy 1939; Greenberg 1966, 1975, 1978).