McGill Colloquium: Dialect variation and phonetic change: Incipient tonogenesis in Khmer

Below is information pertaining to McGill’s Colloquium:

Speaker: James Kirby (University of Edinburgh)
When: Monday, Jan 19, 3:30
Place: Education Building, room 627

Title: “Dialect variation and phonetic change: Incipient tonogenesis in Khmer”

Unlike many languages of Southeast Asia, Khmer (Cambodian) is not a tone language, but an incipient tone contrast has been noted in several Khmer dialects for at least 50 years. While the process of tonogenesis is reasonably well-understood, the manner by which it seems to be taking place in Khmer – conditioned by loss of onset /r/ – has not been reported for any other language. In this talk, I will compare new acoustic and perceptual data on the emergence of tone in two varieties of Khmer: the colloquial speech of the capital Phnom Penh, and the dialect spoken in Kiên Giang province, Vietnam. I will show how this sound change may have been set in motion by devoicing of /r/, and sketch a statistical learning account of how differences in the perception of devoicing might help explain the observed differences between dialects. Finally, I will briefly discuss the implications of these findings for our understanding of tonogenesis and phonetic change more generally.

 

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