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Linguistic Diversity and its Sources

Themes and actions

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Team webmaster : Anetta KOPECKA, Maïa PONSONNET

The updated story of /r/: typology, anatomy, variation and language change

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Scientific framework and objectives

In the framework of my thesis I am interested in the evolution of language trough the intrinsic variation included in the concept of phoneme, as well as the allophonic variation that is subsumed under the grapheme . It could appear that some phonemes are more robust than others making them less favorable to linguistic change. These phonemes are generally characterized by few allophones. In contrast, some phonemes are more fragile, with more allophones, and in some cases with different articulatory patterns resulting in the same acoustic pattern. The phoneme /r/ has often been described as a vibrating consonant across languages, but it appears that the rolled allophone [r] is very little present across the languages of the world compared to the tapped allophone [ɾ] which is often marginalized. These two allophones can be analyzed as articulatory complex, explaining the late age at which they are usually acquired, and in some cases never mastered. Moreover anatomical biases could play a role in the typology of the rolled allophone.
This thesis is at the frontier between perception and production and takes into account existing inter- and intra-individual variations. Mixing phonetics, phonology and also sociolinguistics, this thesis aims to describe the evolution of allophones through biological and cultural evolution. I am also interested in the transfer of concepts from biology that can be used to explain the complexity and thus the robustness and fragility of sounds, and on a larger scale of linguistic features.


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