Fachgruppe Sprachwissenschaft, Post Fach 5560, Univ. Konstanz, D-7750 Konstanz, Germany
Phonological variation in the form of different phonetic shapes of words pose a challenge for theories of speech perception and language comprehension. Postlexical phonological processes like assimilation and deletion frequently cause the phonetic shape of a word to change in a given phonological context. Such processes can easily lead to the creation of nonwords. In a sentence like ``I detest green bananas,'' the word green may well be pronounced as [grim] in the context of a following [b]. Listeners, however, apparently have no problems in parsing and identifying the word correctly in ongoing speech. How is the linguistic system organized such that it can accept the sequence [grim] as the word green? In this talk, competing theoretical accounts dealing with such variation will be presented. An account which assumes a highly abstract lexical representation will be presented. This account assumes that the central component of the linguistic system is the lexicon which contains, among other things, a dictionary of uninflected words with their phonological forms, semantic properties, and syntactic properties of various sorts. The phonological form is assumed to have a highly abstract representation on the basis of which the listener accepts or rejects phonetic variance. In addition, a recent hypothesis will be argued against that assumes an on-line process of phonological inference and an abstract representation will be presented to deal with phonetic variation. The data to support the hypothesis comes from German assimilation processes.