Speaker Series: Abby Cohn

Nov 5, 2015 at - | IRCS Conference Room

Phonological patterning in a naturalistic corpus of Jakarta Indonesian: Reflections on sources of variation

Abby Cohn (Cornell)—Phonetics, Phonology.


In this talk, I discuss the role of variation in phonology, taking two examples from Jakarta Indonesian (JI) documenting the interplay between phonological patterning and both inter- and intra- speaker variation.


Most prior work on Indonesian has focused on Standard Indonesian (SI). However as a formal standard, SI is subject to normative aspects of pronunciation that could affect observed patterns. In collaborative work with Okki Kurniawan, we investigate observed phonological and morphophonological patterning in JI, a rapidly developing colloquial variety spoken in and around the capital, drawing on data from a naturalistic spoken corpus (Gil and Tadmor 2014).


First, we investigate the status of schwa based on corpus data. While schwa in Indonesian is contrastive, the distribution of schwa is different from the other five vowels in terms of stress and phonotactics, and the realization of schwa is variable. We investigate the multiple factors conditioning the realization of schwa: orthography, historical source, morphological structure, and phonological structure, in order to understand the differences between inter-speaker and intra-speaker variation.


Second, we investigate the realization of the active prefix N- in JI (cognate with the meN-prefix in SI).  With voiced stop-initial roots, two variants are observed, e.g. /N+bəli/ [ŋəbəli]  ̴  [mbəli] ‘to buy’.  Evidence from corpus data and a production study both attest to extensive inter and intra-speaker variation, but do not suggest lexicalization of specific forms (such as was observed by Zuraw 2010 for a similar pattern in Tagalog).


These data from a naturalistic corpus including speaker identity as an analytic variable highlight the extent and complexity of variation seen in phonological and morphophonological patterns. In closing, what are implications for what we are describing and analyzing when we do “phonological analysis”?