Locality and linguistic theory: The crucial role of African tone languages
Nicholas Rolle, Leibniz-Centre General Linguistics (ZAS)
Thu, 2/1 · 4:30 pm—6:00 pm · 1-S-5 Green Hall
Program in Linguistics
We are at a juncture when the communication practices of other species are becoming better understood, which linguists can take as an opportunity to readdress a fundamental question: what makes human language human? In this talk, I will examine one core architectural property of language, namely “locality”, which restricts the possible long-distance interactions in linguistic representations. While theories of locality in phonology and morphology typically involve adjacency between interacting elements, this talk presents two novel case studies from minority African tone languages showing that linguistic tone has looser locality demands than counterpart consonants and vowels. Such work demonstrates the outsized role which low-resource languages continue to play in linguistic theory, and the importance of maintaining long-term collaborations with speaker communities.
Dr. Nicholas Rolle received his PhD from UC Berkeley in 2018 and currently holds a research position at the Leibniz-Centre General Linguistics (ZAS) in Berlin, Germany. He is a phonologist whose research spans both linguistic theory and fieldwork-based language description, specializing in the languages of West Africa. Most recently, his research has focused on the ability of pitch in African sound systems to signal a wider range of meanings than in more familiar non-African languages. He has published widely in both theoretical and Africanist journals, including Phonology, Linguistic Inquiry, Morphology, and the Journal for African Languages and Linguistics.