Brownbag: Are Substantive Phonological Features Universals?
Abstract: There has long been debate about the role of substance in phonology, with controversy about whether features are innate or emergent, and whether phonological substantive markedness hierarchies exist. In this talk, I address this debate. While in general there has been a move in linguistics to reduce what is considered to be innate (e.g., Mielke 2008), recent work on features by Duanmu (2016) and on markedness by de Lacy (2006) and de Lacy and Kingston (2013), among others, strongly asserts the need for substantive universals in phonology, with both features and markedness hierarchies being innate. I examine their arguments from an empirical perspective, concluding that in both cases aspects of phonological activity remain unaccounted for if a particular set of features is universal, with universal markedness relations between features. I outline a model of phonology that incorporates general concepts such categorization, asymmetries, activity, and complexity. Finally, I relate how such research can be important in thinking about dealing with variation in language revitalization.