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Journal Article

Phonological and morphological constraints on German /t/-deletions


Scharinger,  Mathias       
Department of Language and Literature, Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Max Planck Society;
Max Planck Research Group Auditory Cognition, MPI for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Max Planck Society;

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Zimmerer, F., Scharinger, M., & Henning, R. (2014). Phonological and morphological constraints on German /t/-deletions. Journal of Phonetics, 45, 64-75. doi:10.1016/j.wocn.2014.03.006.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0023-DA02-B
In running speech, deviations from canonical pronunciations are omnipresent. In extreme cases, segments such as /t/ are deleted altogether. On the other hand, /t/ may have morphological meaning, for instance, as marker of past tense in deal-t. Is it thus less likely that /t/ is deleted in dealt than in monomorphemic words, such as paint? Previous research suggests that morphological constraints on /t/-deletions indeed exist in English. However, in languages like German with richer morphology than English, the probability that /t/ with morphological information is deleted seems to be higher, particularly in contexts where /t/-deletion can allow for cluster simplification. Would such phonological effects override morphological constraints on /t/-deletion? To this end, a novel inflectional spoken verb form corpus was constructed in order to analyze the role of phonological and morphological influences on /t/-deletions. Final /t/ was part of suffixes in 2nd and 3rd person singular present tense verb forms (e.g., mach-st; mach-t; ‘make’). Statistical analyses on /t/-deletions revealed that phonological context was highly predictive of /t/-deletions, particularly in cases where cluster simplifications were possible. This was true even in the 3rd person verb forms, where /t/ is morphologically more meaningful than in the 2nd person verb forms, and despite the fact that overall, /t/ was deleted less often in the 3rd than in the 2nd person. Altogether, this suggests that both phonology and morphology may constraint (or predict) /t/-deletions in German, but phonology can override morphological constraints in certain situations.