Monday, Sept. 29, 3PM, KL232


Timo B. Roettger

Short Bio

Timo B. Roettger is a PhD candidate at the Institute of Phonetics, University of Cologne. Timo has worked on numerous topics including numerical cognition, effects of deep brain stimulation on the speech motor system and experimental psycholinguistics. His PhD work focuses on Tashlhiyt Berber, an Afroasiatic language spoken in south Morocco, where he studies dynamic interactions between the intonation system and the cross-linguistically rare phonotactic patterns of Tashlhiyt.

Talk title

The tune drives the text – How an intonation system accommodates to adverse phonological environments.

Talk abstract

Communicative functions are often signaled by intonation. Intonation is mainly manifested by means of tonal movements, i.e. a dynamic modulation of vocal fold vibration during the production of voiced segments, such as vowels. Tashlhiyt, a Berber dialect, is notorious for its typologically rare phonotactic pattern of having words and even whole utterances that have no vowels and consist entirely of voiceless segments (e.g. /tsskʃftstt/ ‘you dried it‘). This talk will discuss how the phonological system of Tashlhiyt resolves the conflict between the necessity to realize intonation and the lack of voiced segments. I will show that under certain conditions, vowel-like elements emerge in order to bear tone. Thus, Tashlhiyt shows that the functional pressure to realize tones can drive the segmental make-up of utterances. This phenomenon points to a dynamic interaction of two levels of linguistic systems (segments and intonation) that are traditionally described as separate, largely independent layers. It further points to a so far unknown evolutionary pathway to vowel origination.