Lexicon against Naturalness: Unnatural Gradient Phonotactic Restrictions in Tarma Quechua
Gasper Begus, Aleksei Nazarov, Anna Björklund, Blas Puente Baldoceda
August 2022

It has been shown in separate studies that phonological grammar can operate probabilistically and in phonetically unnatural directions. This paper examines whether phonological grammar can be both probabilistic and unnatural at the same time. We create a new corpus of Tarma Quechua vocabulary (based both on published and unpublished data), and argue that the unnatural probabilistic phonotactic trends in the Tarma Quechua lexicon are statistically significant and show clear signs of productivity, with evidence from loanword phonology and from morphophonological alternations. We also perform an acoustic analysis of existing recordings to confirm the phonetic status of the the unnatural gradient restriction. To our knowledge, this is the first report of a fully unnatural gradient phonotactic restriction on segmental structure. The existence of unnatural probabilistic phonology has broad theoretical consequences because it requires probabilistic approaches to phonology to derive unnatural patterns. While weighted constraint approaches are more powerful than non-probabilistic approaches, we argue that models without unnatural constraints are not sufficient for deriving Tarma Quechua data. We propose a new framework for evaluating phonological analyses using the goodness of fit measurement. This quantitative evaluation approach supports analyses with some, but not all unnatural constraints. We argue that the proposed approach can serve for evaluating other models and approaches.
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Reference: lingbuzz/006746
(please use that when you cite this article)
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keywords: naturalness in phonology, analysis evaluation, goodness of fit, gradient phenomena, phonotactics, maximum entropy grammar, indexed constraints, phonology
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