The dichotomy of contrastive and allophonic phonological relationships has a long-standing tradition in phonology, but there is growing research that points to phonological relationships that fall between contrastive and allophonic. Measures of lexical distinction (minimal pair counts) and predictability of distribution were applied to Laurentian French vowels to quantify three degrees of contrast between pairs: high, mid, and low contrast. According to traditional definitions, both the high and mid contrast pairs are classified as phonologically contrastive, and low contrast pairs as allophonic. As such, a binary view of contrast (contrastive vs. non-contrastive) predicted that high and mid contrast pairs would pattern together on tasks of speech perception, and low contrast pairs would show a different pattern. The gradient view predicted all vowel pairs would fall along a continuum. Thirty-two speakers of Laurentian French participated in two experiments: an AX task and a similarity rating task. The results did not support a strict binary interpretation of contrast, since the high, mid, and low contrast vowel pairs pattern differently across the experiments. Instead, the results support a gradient view of phonological relationships.
This article is part of the special collection: Marginal Contrasts
Contrast, gradient phonology, Laurentian French, speech perception, allophony
How to Cite
Stevenson, S. & Zamuner, T., (2017) “Gradient phonological relationships: Evidence from vowels in French”, Glossa: a journal of general linguistics 2(1): 58. doi: https://doi.org/10.5334/gjgl.162