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Panchronic Phonology



Director: Martine Mazaudon


Panchronic phonology aims at formulating universal laws of sound change, independent of any specific language group, and of any historical time frame. Its focus is thus the general causes, catalysts, inhibitors and processes of phonological change, in terms of what has been called 'internal' (phonetic and systemic) and 'external' (social and contact) conditions.

The term "panchronic" is not new. Saussure uses it to refer to the most general principles, independently of concrete facts. The panchronic program, as we conceive it, is defined in Haudricourt's seminal work of 1940 (with a first synthesis in Hagège and Haudricourt 1978, see a brief epistemological presentation in Mazaudon and Michailovsky 2007).

Methodologically, the panchronic program rests in particular on the compilation of as many attested cases of sound changes as possible, on the study of sound changes in progress, with particular attention to unstable states, on the phonetic analysis of synchronic variation. One of its aims is the understanding of the organic relationship between synchronic variation and long term historical change.

This approach draws upon and can be situated in a family of research which includes Evolutionary Phonology (Blevins 2004), Ohala's studies of the phonetic conditions of change (1989), and Labov's (1994-2010) studies of variation and change.

Some theoretical questions arise from considering language as an object in constant evolution: what is the status of (distinctive) features in change? what is universal? is it necessary to adopt a view of phonological systems as (constantly) emergent (Pierrehumbert 2001)?

   Presentation in Pdf (here).



Blevins J., 2004, Evolutionary phonology: The emergence of sound patterns, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Hagège C. et Haudricourt A.-G., 1978, La phonologie panchronique, Paris, Presses Universitaires de France.

Haudricourt A.-G., 1940, Méthode pour obtenir des lois concrètes en linguistique générale, Bulletin de la Société de Linguistique de Paris, 41(1), pp. 70-74.

Labov W., 1994, 2001, 2010, Principles of linguistic change. I. Internal factors, II. Social factors, III Cognitive and cultural factors, Oxford, Basil Blackwell, puis Wiley-Blackwell (2010).

Mazaudon M. et Michailovsky B., 2007, La phonologie panchronique aujourd'hui: quelques repères, in M.M. J. Fernandez-Vest (ed.), Combats pour les langues du monde: hommage à Claude Hagège, Paris, L'Harmattan, pp. 351-362.

Ohala J., 1989, Sound change is drawn from a pool of synchronic variation, in L. E. Breivik et E. H. Jahr (eds), Language change: Contributions to the study of its causes, The Hague, Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 173-198.

Pierrehumbert J., 2001, Exemplar dynamics: Word frequency, lenition and contras, in J. Bybee and P. Hopper (eds), Frequency and the emergence of phonological structure, Amsterdam, Benjamins, p. 137-157.

Saussure F. de, 1916, Cours de linguistique générale, Paris, Payot [réédité en 1979 et en 1995].

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