2009 | 45 | 1 | 1-31
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Hypotheses of Natural Phonology

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Natural Phonology characterizes production and perception of speech in terms of a set of universal phonetically motivated phonological processes. Before their first words, infants identify some processes as inapplicable in their language, which narrows their perceptual universe to its phonemic system and enables them to hear the intention rather than the actuation of speech. They then gradually inhibit the inapplicable processes to achieve mature pronunciation. If some inhibitions are not fully mastered, the child's speech seems to have a sound change, or perhaps a variable pronunciation, or a speech deficit. Processes that remain active govern allophony, variation, automatic alternations, one's native "accent", and one's "foreign" accent in second-language learning. Inactive processes may (re-)emerge to cope with stresses like injury or fatigue. This paper surveys some of the principal hypotheses of Natural Phonology, and we briefly compare them with Optimality Theory and recent neo-empiricist phonology. We argue that abstraction from actions to intentions is fundamental to learning and understanding language at every level from phonetics to pragmatics.
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  • University of Hawai'i, Mānoa
  • University of Hawai'i, Mānoa
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