Lexical and phonological variation in Russian prepositions

Tal Linzen, Sofya Kasyanenko, Maria Gouskova

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


    Phonological rules can be variable in two ways: they can apply to a subset of the lexicon (lexical variation), or apply optionally, with a probability that depends on the phonological environment (stochastic variation). These two types of variation are occasionally seen as mutually exclusive. We show that the vowel-zero alternation in Russian prepositions ([s trudom] 'with difficulty' vs. [sÉ™ stinoj] 'with the wall') exhibits both types of variation. In two corpus studies and a nonce-word experiment, we document novel stochastic factors that influence the alternation: similarity avoidance, stress position and sonority profile. These constraints interact additively, lending support to a weighted-constraints analysis. In addition to phonologically determined stochastic variation, we find significant lexical variation: phonologically similar nouns differ in the rate at which they condition the alternation in the prepositions. We analyse this pattern by augmenting the weighted-constraints approach with lexical scaling factors.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)453-515
    Number of pages63
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - Dec 2013

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Language and Linguistics
    • Linguistics and Language


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