In a quest to understand the tenants of phonology, I've been reading up on autosegmental phonology. In this article, Browman & Goldstein write:

Thus. we represent linguistic structures in terms of coordinated articulatory movements. called gestures. that are themselves organized into a gestural score that resembles an autosegmental representation.

They also provide a symbolic representation of a hypothetical gestural score for the world "palm", where

the gestures in the gestural score are organized into articulatory tiers. where > the tiers are defined using the notion of articulatory independence

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But I don't understand the explanatory value of this "gestural score". How does it support the claims of autosegmental phonology (or deny the segment)?

I'd be grateful for any insight on this!


The claim is not that Articulatory Phonology "supports" Autosegmental Phonology, rather, it is a factual recognition that ArtPho has a certain resemblance to AutoPho. The graphic representation is introduced in Goldsmith's dissertation in (2) of ch. 1, where he gives the "score for the orchestration of 'pin'", contrasting the standard segmental view with a physical "score". Chapter 4 then talks about "laryngeal gestures". B&G pick up from that perspective, and try to say in detail how this kind of graph can be related to actual physical measurements.

As Goldsmith points out (ch. 4), without autosegmental phonology, the linguistic existence of segments is axiomatic, but with autosegmental phonology, it becomes an empirical hypothesis. The reason is that Goldsmith's gestural score is also a conceivable physical output, so the obvious question to ask is whether something else (other than sheer logical necessity, the need to have a way to talk about what is produced) motivates having segments. Phonologists generally hold that there is something – grammatical computations – that do motivate segments. The ArtPhon program has been to subsume as much of phonology as possible under the kind of "gesture-sliding" analysis that they give in that and other papers. (For example reanalyzing apparent category-changing assimilations of /t/ to [p] before [p] not as change of thing, but an earlier initiation of labial closure which obscures the lingual gesture). There is, not entirely incidentally, a de-linguistification, of phonology in ArtPho, where the goal is to reduce at least phonetic implementation to a general motor control system, similar to walking or chewing.

  • Thanks a lot. I hope you know how much I appreciate your advise and input. So much of what is discussed in my linguistics course presupposes a coherent understanding of phonological theory. Sure, I can perform the analysis using feature theory, but without understanding what I am doing, it's just a puzzle, without didactic value. So thanks a million – Teusz Oct 3 '16 at 6:00
  • So is it accurate to consider that AutoPho laid the foundation of ArticPho by calling into question the validity of the segment-as-a-unit? While the two theories could co-exist, presumably, they would both be called into question by the syllabic phenomena described by McCarthy. Correct? – Teusz Oct 3 '16 at 6:02
  • Yes, I think it is correct to say that Goldsmith introduced the crack that became rejection of the segment in mainstream phonology. G does not actually reject the segment, he puts the segment in phonology on a different footing. However, B&G were Ohala-oriented phoneticians, and as far as I can tell O has been a segment-skeptic since birth. – user6726 Oct 3 '16 at 15:42

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