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A closer look at the constraint hierarchy: Order, contrast, and geographical scale

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  25 November 2003

Barbara M. Horvath
Affiliation:
University of Sydney
Ronald J. Horvath
Affiliation:
University of Sydney

Abstract

Close examination of five constraint hierarchies involved in the vocalization of /l/ in Australian and New Zealand English across five geolinguistic scales (individual, local, regional, national, and supranational) reveals patterns of variation that allow us to distinguish linguistic processes that are universal from those that are particular. Based on 42 goldvarb analyses, we use probability weights to measure the variation in the order and contrast within and across constraint hierarchies. Geolinguistic scale analysis shows that some constraints are scale independent (i.e., they do not vary in order or contrast with changes in geolinguistic scale), whereas others are clearly scale dependent and do vary systematically with changes in geolinguistic scale. We propose a universality continuum in which constraint hierarchies that exhibit near invariance across all geolinguistic scales are at one end of the continuum and constraint hierarchies that vary with geolinguistic scale are at the other end. Scale dependency in constraint hierarchies identifies where social processes can intervene in universal linguistic processes.We would like to thank Sali Tagliamonte for engaging with us in a discussion of the problems associated with comparing goldvarb analyses. We would also like to thank Meriam Meyerhoff for suggesting that we look at the individual scale. In addition, a thoughtful reviewer carefully laid out the potential statistical problems associated with our approach to the comparison of goldvarb analyses. We have attempted to defend the approach taken, but recognize that the discussion of comparative goldvarb analysis warrants further consideration.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 2003 Cambridge University Press

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