University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics


There have been many attempts to address the actuation problem using interspeaker variation (Baker et al. 2011), articulatory biases (Sóskuthy 2013), and informativity (Cohen Priva 2017). In this work we study another factor, functional load, by examining ongoing mergers in English and Dutch, trying to isolate the conditions under which functional load has a detectable effect in preventing a merger from the conditions under which no effect is visible. The effect is clear in cases of unconditioned mergers, like devoicing of Dutch fricatives, but unclear in cases of conditioned mergers, like the loss of a contrast in rhotic environments in English. We discuss the implications of these findings for the actuation problem and for phonological acquisition.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.