The relational /r/: three case studies in rhotic integrity and variation
This dissertation articulates a relational phonology of rhotic or r-like sounds from a functionalist perspective. The first chapter notes that no viable, phonetically motivated evidence for the classhood of rhotics has been proposed to date and advances the case for a non-structuralist approach to the question of crosslinguistic rhotic classification, i.e. one that does not begin with an assumed phonological structure, but one where structure is considered a relative, emergent property of linguistic (here, phonological) function. A second chapter presents functionalist theory and its application to phonological classhood, stating that a segment may be defined according to the articulatory and perceptual similarities and differences it presents with regard to a larger, organic whole. The third chapter consists of a phonetic description of the consonant inventories of American English, Amsterdam and Brabant Dutch, and European French, using native speaker tokens as the foundation for subsequent discussion. The dynamic relations of individual segments within the continuant consonant systems are described in the fourth chapter, consisting of segmental definitions resulting from the similarities and differences present within an organic system. A constraint based, OT inspired framework is employed in discussion and advancement of the segmental integrity (or definition by relational dynamic) of rhotics, in particular. Conceptual mapping of articulatory and perceptual systemic relations is also proposed. Relational definition of individual rhotics leads to the position of these segments’ phonological relational integrity or classhood, i.e. the cross-linguistic similarities between the individual relational specification of each of these sounds. A final chapter applies the relational definition of rhotics to instances of variation and shows how a relational definition of the segment contributes to a greater understanding of linguistic behavior.