The nature of homophony and its effects on diachrony and synchrony

Jean-Francois Mondon, University of Pennsylvania


The role of homophony in language change and in child morphological acquisition has often been made recourse to. Regarding the former it has been proposed that the threat of homophony can prevent a sound change from going to completion. With respect to the latter, it has been vaguely and contradictorily claimed that homophonous morphological endings are in some instances both not readily acquired and in others so ably acquired that they exhibit imperialistic behavior, ousting other non-homophonous desinences sharing the same morphosyntactic content. This dissertation is divided into two parts whose common thread is the determination of homophony's role in language. In the first part several cases of purported homophony avoidance in sound change are analyzed and Labov's (1994) Facultative Theory is developed so as to remedy the data with the regularity of sound change. Additionally, recent attempts to write into the synchronic grammar some notion of homophony-avoidance are rejected and the relevant data reanalyzed. The second part of the dissertation develops a morphological learning algorithm which makes clear predictions as to when homophony will be treated systematically as opposed to accidentally by the linguistic system. The algorithm is tested against language errors from Polish and Lithuanian.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Mondon, Jean-Francois, "The nature of homophony and its effects on diachrony and synchrony" (2009). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3381758.