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Are Universal Markedness Hierarchies Learnable from the Lexicon? The Case of Gemination in Hungarian
Lilla Magyar
287-298 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


Gemination in loanwords is a cross-linguistically widespread phenomenon. The process involves lengthening of a singleton consonant which is preceded by a short (stressed) vowel in the source word, even when gemination does not have an orthographic reflex in the source word. None of the source languages allow phonetic geminates and all of the borrowing languages do. Furthermore, none of the borrowing languages require geminates phonotactically in the positions where lengthening happens in loanwords. In Hungarian, borrowings from English and German (and occasionally from French) participate in this process. The propensity of loanwords to undergo gemination depends on the position of the consonant. Gemination is most predictable in monosyllables. Apart from position, consonant class also determines whether a consonant is likely to be geminated or not. The ranking of consonants undergoing gemination in loanwords lines up with hierarchies of universal geminate markedness, which potentially supports the hypothesis that Hungarian speakers are drawing on their knowledge of this universal hierarchy. In this paper, the following hypotheses are tested: (1) Native speakers of Hungarian (a language which allows all kinds of geminates) have some awareness of universal geminate markedness. (2) These asymmetries are reflected in the native lexicon: the frequency distribution of geminates lines up with patterns of universal markedness. (3) These patterns can be learned from the native Hungarian lexicon based on phonotactic generalisations.

Published in

Proceedings of the 33rd West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics
edited by Kyeong-min Kim, Pocholo Umbal, Trevor Block, Queenie Chan, Tanie Cheng, Kelli Finney, Mara Katz, Sophie Nickel-Thompson, and Lisa Shorten
Table of contents
Printed edition: $375.00