Pictures of Lily (Cartoon)—Alessandro Filipepi Ps. Q. Vol XVI, No 1 Contents A Stratificational Approach to Making Macaroni and Cheese—Tim Pulju

Granular Phonology

In a recent work (Phonology Yearbook 1, 1984), Sanford Schane has proposed a new system of representation for phonological systems, which he calls Particle Phonology. In this article, Schane argues for a universal set of three phonological primitives and a large number of basic operations. The primitives represent categories of palatility (symbolized as i), labiality (u) and aperture (a). Combinations of these primitives comprise the various phonetic vowel qualities in a given language.

Although Schane’s particular system is extremely elegant, and represents a major step forward beyond other current models (e.g. Fleckenberg’s “gorilla/banana” model), it nonetheless suffers from the common malady of not being rigorous enough. Schane’s rejection of the Autosegmental framework is an undeniable stroke of genius, but some of the greatest potential merits of particle phonology yet lie fallow. I will now plant and harvest where Schane has plowed.

The major motivation for further refining particle phonology is that Schane’s “primitives” are simply too bulky. Too large. Intuition (and common sense, too) tells us that, for example, [ ï ] is simply not that much farther forward than is [ u ]certainly not far enough to warrant the addition of an entire palatility particle! Clearly, some intermediate stage is called for.

Granular phonology addresses this woesome lacking in a manner analogous to a situation discovered by physiciststhat sub-atomic particles (protons, neutrons, etc.) are composed of sub-sub-atomic ones (called quarks). In reflecting on this fact, I have discovered that phonological particles likewise are composed of two such smaller units, which I term GRANULES.

In order to avoid cluttering the linguistic terminological scene (a sentiment for which I claim originality, at least), and in order to accurately mirror the essential similarity of phonological and grammatical phenomena, I shall call the two phonological granules NOUN and VERB, respectively. (Other theorists may call them whatever they like, but should not come crying to me when they discover each other’s work terminologically indecipherable; I have done my part in setting a standard.) Thus, the labiality particle comprises the sequence NOUN-VERB, while the palatility particle comprises that of VERB-NOUN. The aperture particle, being of an essentially different phonetic nature, comprises the sequence Det-NOUN-VERB(Link)-ADJ. The labiality particle is thus termed “phonetically intransitive,” while palatility is, in granular terms, “phonetically subjectless.” As expected, the aperture particle is some sort of “phonetic complement.”

The addition of NOUN or VERB granules, analogous to valence increasing or “thickening the plot,” can now be used to create the necessary and sufficient intervals between phonetic vowel quantities, such as between [ æ ], NOUN-VERB-VERB, and [ ɛ ], VERB-VERB-VERB. (A detailed discussion of such “phonetic serial VERBS,” incidentally, is beyond the scope of this paper, but would probably make an excellent dissertation topic.)

Although space prohibits discussion here, I would like to note that this refined system implies certain predictions with regard to which phonetic vowel qualities may occur in a given language, based on purely syntactic considerations. Notably, SVO languages should contain no phonetic NOUN-NOUN-VERB sequences, while languages containing only one vowel quality will probably turn out to correlate bi-uniquely with languages lacking verbs, since a single vowel will, by definition, be composed of a single NOUN granule. Further typological predictions, along with more detailed discussion of Granular Phonology, may be found in my forthcoming volume, Temporal Deixis in Shoshone Discourse, the preparation of which led me to posit this elegant system in the first place.

Keith W. Slater Michigan State University

Pictures of Lily (Cartoon)Alessandro Filipepi
A Stratificational Approach to Making Macaroni and CheeseTim Pulju
Ps. Q. Vol XVI, No 1 Contents