Journal of East Asian Linguistics

, Volume 27, Issue 2, pp 111–139 | Cite as

On the role of contrastivity in the development of the /e \(\sim \upvarepsilon /\) merger in Korean

  • Julien EychenneEmail author
  • Tae-Yeoub Jang


This paper seeks to assess the role of functional factors in the development of the /e \(\sim \) \(\upvarepsilon \)/ unconditioned merger that has taken place in Seoul Korean. We explore several alternative measures of functional load, one measure of phonetic distance evaluated on a perceptual scale, and a simple integrative measure, which combines functional load and phonetic distance into a single ‘contrastivity index.’ Our results show that, while both functional load and perceptual distance hint at the fact that /e \(\sim \) \(\upvarepsilon \)/ was a weak contrast, this effect is clearest when these two factors are integrated together, especially when functional load is measured as phone-level entropy loss. The proposed metric thus offers a fruitful way of modeling the interaction between functional factors in the development of mergers.


Contrastivity Functional load Phonetic distance Merger Korean 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Linguistics and Cognitive ScienceHankuk University of Foreign StudiesYonginSouth Korea
  2. 2.Department of English Linguistics and Language TechnologyHankuk University of Foreign StudiesSeoulSouth Korea

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