Ask Your Question

What are the phonological process rules for homorganic nasals?

asked 2015-04-26 03:58:48 -0400

this post is marked as community wiki

This post is a wiki. Anyone with karma >750 is welcome to improve it.

Greetings! Re: Homorganic nasal phonological rules

My questions is probably simple and obvious to you, but I'm a little confused here!

I understand the main idea; that homorganic nasalisation is a process of assimilation to varying degrees, and primarily involves the use of affixes - if we just concentrate on the underlying affix form 'un' or 'in'...

(In English): bilabial /m/ shares the same place of articulation with /p/ and /b/ alveolar /n/ shares the same place of articulation with /t/, /d/, /s/, /z/ and /l/ velar /ŋ/ shares the same place of articulation with /k/ and /g/

But I'm just not sure how to write the rules properly (non-linearly).

In the word 'inadequate' [ɪnædəkwət], I see that the vowel becomes nasalized, therefore: V → Vⁿ __ [N] (" A vowel becomes a nasalized vowel when it occurs before a nasal")

For words such as 'impossible' [ɪmpɑsəbəl], we assume the underlying prefix form is actually [in] (is that right?), therefore the process of assimilation would be something like: prefix [ɪn] --> [ɪm] / _ [bilabial sound] (meaning that the prefix 'in' assimilates to 'im' preceding a bilabial sound like /p/) Am I on the right track here?

and 'incorrect' [ɪnkərɛkt] [ɪn] --> [ɪŋ] / __ [velar sound] (meaning that the prefix 'ɪn' assimilates to 'ɪŋ' when it precedes a velar sound like /k/) Does this make sense?

Finally, approximants /l/ and /r/, for example: 'irregular' [ɪrɛgjələr], and 'illegal' [ɪligəl]... one precedes a short vowel, the other precedes a long vowel - (Is that relevant?) Was the underlying prefix form also 'in', but the sounds have assimilated due to the place of articulation (as above) and been fully changed? Something like:

[ɪn] --> [ɪr] / _ [r]

[ɪn] --> [ɪl] / _ [l]


Any help to formalize the phonological rules so that they are actually correct would be oh-so awesome and I would really appreciate it! Most of the resources I have give good explanations but not an example of the actual phonological rule.

Many thanks in advance!

J :)

edit retag flag offensive close merge delete

1 answer

Sort by » oldest newest most voted

answered 2015-04-26 09:34:19 -0400

usagi5886 gravatar image

V → Vⁿ / __ [N]

is on the right track. If we use features, we could represent it as

V → V[+nasal] / __ C[+nasal]

The place alternation of ɪm ~ ɪn ~ ɪŋ could be represented using alpha notation. (See also this survey of various kinds of notation in phonological rules.)

V → V[+nasal α place] / __ C[+nasal α place]

Most phonologists today would contest that place is not a single feature but rather a class of multiple (privative) features, so in the above rule 'α place' should probably be interpreted as a stand-in for features like [coronal], [labial], or [dorsal]. If you've looked into feature geometry, the kind of assimilation you're looking at can be expressed with a linking rule.

There's also the issue of whether this should be written as one rule vs. two. In theory, you should be able to find cases where nasal assimilation occurs without place assimilation, and place assimilation occurs without nasal assimilation. So it might be better to split the rule I've provided above into two, but that raises a larger, more challenging question of when do they apply separately and when do they apply together.

As for the words with /ɪɹ/ and /ɪl/, it appears those assimilations date back all the way to Medieval Latin (cf. illegal, irregular ). As such, from a psycholinguistic standpoint, it probably wouldn't be appropriate to formalize a ɪn→ɪɹ or ɪn→ɪl rule for modern-day English. After all, such a rule would need to be stipulated as extremely limited in scope, because many words in fact have the forbidden sequences, e.g. inline or inroad(s). It's probably more appropriate to assume that the words are stored in the lexicon as a chunk/whole. (This does not preclude there from being some sort of connection in the lexicon of such a word to its respective un-prefixed form.) If any rule were to be written, it may need to be for Medieval Latin, but even there you would have to check how generalized the process was.

edit flag offensive delete link more


Thank you! :)

Jude gravatar imageJude ( 2015-04-26 22:54:31 -0400 )edit
Login/Signup to Answer

Question Tools

1 follower


Asked: 2015-04-26 03:58:48 -0400

Seen: 3,730 times

Last updated: Apr 26 '15