[enɑq] ‘tree’ [nɑq] ‘brother-in-law’ [enok] ‘house’ [mɑqip] ‘chicken’ [ilɑqo] ‘drum’ [nuk] ‘sweet potato’ [nsik] ‘I am buying’ [nek] ‘rope’   Two of your friends are looking at this data and notice that the sounds are in complementary distribution. They state the following generalizations: Ana says: “[q] occurs after back vowels; [k] appears elsewhere.” Bo says “[k] occurs at the end of a word; [q] appears elsewhere.” Neither Ana nor Bo is exactly correct. In complete sentences, explain what is wrong with each argument. Use specific examples (words) from the data to support your claim. State the correct generalization about the data.

Expert Answers

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Both Ana and Bo are noticing linguistic trends, but their generalizations aren't quite correct. This linguistic puzzle is something of a logic puzzle, and you can look for trends in the word construction to come up with the correct rules to explain the data.

Ana states that [q] occurs after back vowels and [k] appears elsewhere, but that's not the case. In the sample given, [q] occurs only after [a]. If you look at a linguistic chart that shows how vowel sounds are made, you'll see that [a] is only one of several back vowels. Other back vowels include [u] and [o] (and there are more back vowels that require specialty phonetic symbols). So, Ana's generalization is too broad.

Bo states that [k] occurs at the end of a word and [q] appears elsewhere, but this is clearly incorrect given data like [enaq] and [naq]. His statement about [k] is correct in the given sample—we don't see a [k] anywhere except at the end of a word—but his generalization about [q] is too narrow. We know from thinking through Ana's statement that [q] can appear at any point in a word as long as it follows [a].

In short, Bo is looking at placement within the word, and Ana is looking at vowel use. Both are helpful ways to understand how words are constructed in a specific linguistic data set, but neither gives a complete picture on its own.

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