Universals, their Violation and the Notion of Phonologically Peculiar Languages
Published Online: Jan 01, 2017
A language can be said to be “peculiar” if it violates a universal pattern that admits only very few exceptions. In the paper, we propose a typology of phonological peculiarities concerning the content of segment inventories, and deal in detail with one of these types. The type involves the illegitimate absence of a segment that an implicational universal predicts should actually be present in the segment inventory of a language. A computer program retrieved 33 phonological peculiarities of this type in the UCLA Phonological Segment Inventory Database (UPSID), comprising 451 languages. It turned out that 391 of these languages had no peculiarity of the type studied, 43 had one, and 17 more than one peculiarity. Some observations are made regarding the last category of 17 “strongly peculiar” languages. In particular, it is shown that despite their strong phonological idiosyncrasy, the peculiar languages have only a limited variability in that they cannot violate more than six universals or have more than three distinct segments lacking.