Rejecting the phonetics/phonology split
Commentary on ”A theoretical synopsis of evolutionary phonology”, target article by Juliette Blevins
Theoretical Linguistics 32 (2): 237-243.
This commentary presents critical remarks in response to Juliette Blevins’s a synopsis of her theory of Evolutionary Phonology. It argues that the phonetics/phonology split should be rejected and that attempts should be made to deduce sound structure from language use. Theory construction should be placed closer to the universal conditions under which all speech communication takes place starting from ‘first principles’ and not circularly from the data to be explained (cf ‘markedness’). At the level of the individual user, phonological structure should be modeled, not as autonomous form, but as an emergent organization of phonetic substance acquired by each native speaker in the context of socially shared, ambient knowledge. At the population level, this information takes the form of use- & user-dependent knowledge that undergoes change along the historical time scale. Evolutionary Phonology is traditional (form-based rather than substance-based) in making the distinction between “phonological” and “extra-phonological”. An alternative key move would be to make ‘intrinsic phonetic content’ an integral part of the theory from scratch treating it as the source that helps generate discrete structure and that constrains both synchronic and diachronic phonological patterning.