Phonotactic Frequencies in Marathi

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Kelly Harper Berkson
Max Nelson


Breathy sonorants are cross-linguistically rare, occurring in just 1% of the languages indexed in the UCLA Phonological Segment Inventory Database (UPSID), and they are understudied: prior work has shed some light on their acoustic properties, but much remains to be learned about the language-internal distribution of these sounds in a language where they do occur, such as Marathi (Indic, spoken mainly in Maharashtra, India). With this in mind, we present an overview of the phonotactic frequencies of consonants, vowels, and CV-bigrams in the Marathi portion of the EMILLE/CIIL corpus. Results of a descriptive analysis show that breathy sonorants are underrepresented overall, making up fewer than 0.7% of the consonants in the 2.2 million-word corpus, and that they are favored in low-vowel contexts and disfavored in back vowel contexts. If this language-internal pattern of underrepresentation and uneven distribution in Marathi is found to be representative, it may suggest that phonation-type contrasts in sonorants are poorly cued overall, and particularly so in some vowel contexts, facts which could help explain why they are so typologically rare.


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