SIL International Media Release

Retroflex consonant harmony—poster session at NELS 39

(November 2008) The 39th Meeting of the North East Linguistic Society (NELS 39) is being held 7–9 November at Cornell University in New York. Alexei Kochetov, University of Toronto, and Ph.D. graduate student Paul Arsenault, an SIL linguist, are presenting a poster session, "Retroflex harmony in Kalasha: Agreement or spreading?"

Kochetov and Arsenault investigated co-occurrence restrictions on coronal consonants in Kalasha (Dardic, Indo-Aryan). Their detailed analysis of Kalasha roots, based on a published dictionary, reveals that the language exhibits retroflex consonant harmony, which is highly sensitive to relative similarity of non-adjacent consonants.

They evaluate two current theories of consonant harmony, arguing that the data is problematic for a local feature-spreading approach. The data is compatible with a long-distance agreement approach by correspondence that encodes feature similarity.

Conference planners invited participants to submit abstracts for talks or posters on any aspect of theoretical linguistics, as well as a special session on Linguistics at the Interfaces.

NELS 39 is sponsored by the Cornell Linguistics Department and the Syracuse-Rochester-Cornell Central New York Humanities Corridor.

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