Investigating the potential for merger of Icelandic 'flámæli' vowel pairs through functional load
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All languages exhibit the duality of patterning, where words are formed via discrete meaningful units called morphemes, which in turn are made up of lexically contrastive phonemes. Some contrasts have been found to do more ‘work’ in a language than others. This notion of ‘work’ done by a contrast is referred to as functional load, which can be computed using methods from information theory. This method has been found to accurately predict the potential for elimination of a phonological contrast, such as a merger. In this thesis, functional load and other quantitative measures are used to investigate the phonological relationships in a purported near-merger of two vowel pairs in Icelandic, termed flámæli (‘skewed speech’) vowels. The findings indicate the high propensity for elimination of one of the two contrasts, and suggest that this near-merger is an instance of an intermediate phonological relationship. The apparent nature of the merger is confirmed.