TitleDistinctiveness, Coercion and Sonority: A Unified Theory of Weight
NameMorén, Bruce Timothy, University of Maryland (College Park, Md.),
Optimality Theory (Linguistics),
Grammar, Comparative and general--Phonology
DescriptionCross-linguistically, phonological weight systems can be quite complex. There are many factors to take into account when describing and explaining weight patterns, including: 1) segment type (consonant or vowel), 2) sonority, 3) weight distinctiveness, 4) prosodic weight requirements, and 5) phonological environment (including syllable position). The interaction of these factors can sometimes obscure relationships among them, thus leading to several separate approaches to account for different pieces of the weight puzzle. For example, distinctive vowel length and distinctive consonant gemination are often seen as different phenomena to be accounted for in different ways. Similarly, vowel lengthening and weight by position are seen as almost completely unrelated. However, a thorough inspection of data from a large number of languages leads to the conclusion that a unified theory and mechanism of moraicity across segment types (i.e. both consonants and vowels) is warranted. This work provides such a unified theory. The two main goals of this dissertation are: 1) to examine and review the nature and patterns of segment weight, including: inventories, processes, and dependencies; and 2) to provide a simple and economical account for the observed descriptive generalizations within the framework of Optimality Theory (OT) and Moraic Theory. In addition, it becomes clear throughout this work that one major advantage of OT over traditional rule-based theories is the typological predictions intrinsic to the architecture. Since OT constraints are universal, violable and re-rankable, their factorial ranking potentially yields all possible grammars. In the case of segmental weight, the factorial ranking of three simple constraint families yields the major descriptive generalizations found cross-linguistically. Chapter 1 reviews evidence for different degrees of weight, presents the syllable representations assumed throughout this work, and demonstrates that there are two sources of weight - coerced and distinctive. Coerced weight is a restriction on surface moraicity in some phonological context (e.g. weight by position and foot binarity), and is subject to distributional restrictions based on sonority. In contrast, distinctive weight is an underlying moraicity reflected in a surface contrast (e.g. geminate versus non-geminate intervocalic consonants), and is not bounded by sonority. Both sources of weight are observed to be relevant to both vowels and consonants. Chapter 2 briefly reviews Optimality Theory and Correspondence Theory, discusses the relationship between OT and typology, and presents the factorial rankings (permutations) of three types of constraints: 1) General moraic markedness constraints against moraic segments of different types - ranked in a universal hierarchy based on sonority; 2) Coercive moraic markedness constraints; and 3) Faithfulness constraints on underlying moraic affiliation with segments of different sonorities. Chapter 3 uses data from a number of languages to show that the descriptive generalizations discussed in chapter 1 emerge naturally as the result of interactions among the constraints formalized in chapter 2. Chapter 4 expands on chapter 3, and provides in-depth case studies of segment moraicity and other phenomena in Hawaiian, Modern Standard Italian, Kashmiri, two Hungarian dialects, two Icelandic dialects, and Metropolitan New York English. This chapter gives detailed descriptions of different weight patterns; reveals that the constraints proposed in this work can be integrated into more complete grammars, and shows that different dialects can arise from a minimal re-ranking of constraints. Chapter 5 is a repository for miscellaneous issues, as well as the general conclusions. Specifically, it provides a discussion of why there is no need for constraints that target long vowels and/or geminate consonants to derive inventories; it addresses the work of Broselow, et al (1998) regarding phonetic reflections of phonological weight; it discusses the advantages of using negative moraic markedness constraints over positive constraints; and it shows that Tranel's (1991) Principle of Equal Weight for Codas is the logical result of constraint interaction.
CollectionRutgers Optimality Archive
Organization NameRutgers, The State University of New Jersey
RightsThe author owns the copyright to this work