Native and non-native intuitions on the phonology of binomial locutions
Binomial locutions are a well-known case of structural iconicity that exists in many languages. By binomial locutions I understand formations that have the shape of A conjunction B (1a), or A-B (1b): (1). a. English: bread and butter, wear and tear; French: dire et juger, aller et retour, ni foi ni loi b. English: wishy-washy, helter-skelter; French: pêle-mêle, clopin-clopant, tohu-bohu This dissertation deals with phonological patterns in binomial locutions. It will be argued that two kinds of constraints underlie their formation and fossilization of their word order: constraints on the directionality of a certain phonological feature (Birdsong, 1979; Cooper & Ross, 1975) and constraints on the choice of the corresponding segments (Minkova, 2002; Yip, 1988-2000). I refer to the first kind of constraints as to Directionality Constraints and to the second kind of constraints as to Correspondence Constraints. The main objective of this study is to investigate the psychological reality and the relative strength of these constraints in native and non-native speakers of English and French. This study is experimental and closely models the hypothesis and the methodology set forth in Birdsong (1979). Speakers’ sensitivities to the putative constraints are tested with a computer-based judgment task, using pairs of nonsensical expressions, structured in such a way that one expression obeys a specific constraint, and the other expression disobeys it. The task of the participants is to listen to such pairs and to indicate which of them they prefer by using a 6-point scale. The results of this experiment reveal that native English speakers are more sensitive than both native French speakers and non-native English speakers to Directionality Constraints. Moreover, native English speakers prefer rhyming patterns over ablaut alliterating patterns – a trend, that was not observed in other groups tested. Finally, most participants displayed sensitivities to two constraints on directionality – Vowel Quality and Final Consonant Number. I argue that sensitivity to these constraints stems from various factors (iconicity, perceptual salience, short-before-long and unmarked-before-marked principles), which all conspire to favor the same order and predict the same direction of fossilization.