RECEIVED PRONUNCIATION AND LINKING 'R'. AN OPTIMALITY-THEORETIC ANALYSIS OF VARIABILITY
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The paper provides the description of two phonological systems, one with a categorical rule, the other with a free-variation pattern, both concerning the use of linking 'r'. First, it shows that free variation may be captured by the Local Dynamic Reranking concept. The concept does not presume the existence of separate constraint rankings within a given accents, it merely recognizes locally fuzzy areas being determined by sociolinguistic and other factors. Thus free variation (the existence of separate, apparently conflicting variants: rhoticity-nonrhoticity) may not only be described but also explained within a single theoretical framework. Obviously a lot remains to be done in the field of how statically undetermined (neutralized) rankings are dynamically ranked and what causes the fuzziness of local neutralized areas within constraint rankings. Second aside from the explanation of the phenomenon of free variation, the present study attempts to avoid the arbitrariness of the choice of free variants. By combining constraints and underlying forms (floating nature) the paper shows that a given sound appears where it does but also why it is this particular sound that surfaces. It appears that with the amalgam of both markedness constraints and carefully justified possible underlying representations will one be able to come completely to terms with surface phonological variation which is so much a part of any linguistic interaction in any human language.
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