1. The phonetic and phonological effects of obsolescence in Northern Paiute

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Structural changes in a language are considered nearly inevitable consequences of language death (Campbell & Muntzel 1989; Wolfram 2002). The literature on sound change in endangered languages has focused on whether the changes are internally or externally motivated and, therefore, the difference between categorical sound shifts and gradient phonetic effects has been overlooked. This paper discusses sound change in Northern Paiute through two experiments that investigate the difference between categorical changes in the phonological inventory and subphonemic variation within a category. The paper argues that sound change in obsolescing languages may take one of two predictable paths: substitution or approximation/expansion of phonological categories in the moribund language.


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