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

Abstract

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.

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Correspondence to Julien Eychenne.

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Eychenne, J., Jang, T. On the role of contrastivity in the development of the /e \(\sim \upvarepsilon /\) merger in Korean. J East Asian Linguist 27, 111–139 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10831-018-9171-7

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Keywords

  • Contrastivity
  • Functional load
  • Phonetic distance
  • Merger
  • Korean