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  • Emilce Sandra Rees

Universal prohibitions in feature geometry. OT is OTT

I have been doing OT through lock-down basing my studies on this book, A course in Phonology - 1999.

I have the following problem: in p. 510 (markedness statements/ constraints) we find that :

19 r. is given as one of the prohibitions that is "assumed to be inviolable, as a matter of sheer physics"

*[+ nasal, - sonorant] (says that this can be expressed as (=nasals cannot be obstruent)


[m] and [n] are nasals and obstruent (in the vocal tract)

Obstruent is defined as: obstruction in the oral cavity, which includes labial  as per tree in p. 530. [b] and [m] are consonants (to use the old parlance) and bilabial.

So how can 19 r be "inviolable" when child speech uses b and m as perhaps their first consonsants. They are the "easiest" consonants to pronounce.

I agree that in vowels (sorry the term sonorant takes getting used to, as per chart - Halle's - at the end of the book) they of course have to be voiced/sonorants (and can be nasalised).

But nasals cannot be obstruent ? Perhaps cannot be non sonorants. If not (by vocal tract obstruction) they would not be articulated.


So we are left with /a,i,u/ and consonant /t/ (p. 586) as the segmental inventory of natural languages. Is this science ?


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