Regularity and Exceptions in Sound Change

Abstract : The neo-grammarian principle of the regularity of sound change has encountered string opposition from the very time of its formulation, based essentially on the existence of a non-negligible proportion of exceptions to the postulated regular laws. For most of the 20th century, it seemed that peace had been established in the shape of a synthesis, which was not fully explicit, in favor of regular sound change but allowing for ither processes as well. In the late 1960s however, this equilibrium has been brought into question, mostly following the work of William Wang, to the point not only of diminishing the part played by regular sound change, but of removing it from the core of the theory, and denying its place altogether. In the first part of this paper, we criticize the arguments brought against the regularity of sound change. Nevertheless exceptions remain a major methodological problem for the historical linguist. Determining what constitutes a genuine exception and what does not is of fundamental importance to the further development of the theory of sound change. In the second part of this presentation we describe a computer program which we have developed in order to verify on large corpuses the rules proposed by the historical linguist, and to sort out the complete lexicons of the languages under study into "regular" and "non-regular" outcomes.
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Martine Mazaudon, John B. Lowe. Regularity and Exceptions in Sound Change. Annual Conference of the Linguistic Society of Belgium, Marc Domenici; Didier Demolin, Dec 1993, Bruxelles, Belgium. ⟨halshs-01363794⟩

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