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TO ONSET OR NOT TO ONSET: THAT IS THE QUESTION Rina Kreitman Emory University – According to the Sonority Sequencing Principle syllables.

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Presentation on theme: "TO ONSET OR NOT TO ONSET: THAT IS THE QUESTION Rina Kreitman Emory University – According to the Sonority Sequencing Principle syllables."— Presentation transcript:

1 TO ONSET OR NOT TO ONSET: THAT IS THE QUESTION Rina Kreitman Emory University – According to the Sonority Sequencing Principle syllables are expected to rise in sonority from the margins towards the peak. Word initial onsets are expected to rise in sonority, thus onset clusters are expected to be organized in such a manner that the obstruent, closer to the left margin of the word, is expected to precede the sonorant the preferred clustering order is Obstruent-Sonorant (OS). Clusters that do not violate the SSP and have a rising or flat sonority have the following representation: OBSTRUENT-SONORANT CLUSTERS Traditionally sonority reversed clusters or clusters with declining sonority, which violate the SSP, (Sonorant-Obstruent) SO clusters, have been assumed to have a special phonological status (Levin 1985, Steraide 1982). While OS, OO and SS clusters are syllabified as in 1(a), SO clusters are syllabified in some other fashion, for example as in 1(b). A cross-linguistic survey of word initial onset clusters in 62 languages from 22 language families shows that: of 15 logically possible combinations of OS, OO, SS and SO clusters: (a) {OS} {OO, SO} {OO} {SS, SO} {SS} (c) {OS,OO,SS} {SO} {OS,OO,SO} (b) {OS, OO} {OS, SS, SO} {OS, SS} {OO, SS, SO} {OS, SO} (d) {OS, OO, SS, SO} {OO, SS} Only 4 language types emerge as occurring language types. The implicational relations are: SO SS OO OS Emerging from these implication relations is the fact that SO participate in the typology and implicational relations as all other cluster types, which suggests they are not different from all other clusters. HOWEVER… SONORANT-OBSTRUENT CLUSTERS If SO clusters had a different phonological representation, we do not expect the cluster to be restricted in any way. If SO clusters have a different phonological representation we would expect SO clusters not to integrate neatly into the typology, but rather, combine freely with any other language type. If SO clusters have a different phonological representation, we expect the following language types to be possible and occurring language types: Interestingly, these predicted language types are not empirically attested. Rather SO clusters occur in a language only if all other cluster types, OS, OO, and SS, also occur. Thus, the scarcity or markedness of SO clusters is attributed to the fact that SO clusters are implied by all other clusters, and not because they have a special phonological status. Since SO clusters fit into the typology of all other cluster types, there is no need to assume that they have a special phonological representation. If SO clusters do not have a special phonological representation two issues must be addressed: IF… 1. A unified account for the representation of all clusters in word initial position that will unify the representation of all clusters OS, OO, SS and OS. 2. Account for the overwhelming cross- linguistic observation that syllables tend rise in sonority and the fact that SO clusters occur much more infrequently than other cluster types. ISSUES TO ADDRESS 1.I propose to revisit proposals that treat onset as a prosodic unit. The Onset (Ω) is a sub-syllabic unit of organization that dominates pre-vocalic consonantal material: All clusters have the same phonological representation regardless of the sonority values of the members that make up the cluster. This includes SO clusters which, according to this proposal, do not have a special phonological representation. FIRST ISSUE: UNIFIED REPRESENTATION PROPOSAL Languages have an overwhelming tendency to rise in sonority towards the peak and decline towards the margins. Thus, OS, OO and SS clusters are expected to occur more frequently. This is indeed borne out cross- linguistically. Statistically OS is the most common cluster type: SECOND ISSUE: ADDRESSING THE SSP PROPOSAL Ω is subject to sonority constraints imposed on it as sonority threshold requirements are imposed on other prosodic units (de Lacy 2004, Zec 2007 and references therein). Prosodic constituents gain their sonority value through a process of feature percolation as outlined in Zec (2000). COMPUTATION OF SONORITY Each prosodic level sets its own sonority threshold. A prosodic level gains its sonority value in a process of percolation. Each tier has a peak, which is the strong constituent of that tier. The peak of each layer is visible to the layer above it. For example, the head syllable is the strong syllable at the syllabic level and the head mora is the strong mora at the moraic level. The strong syllable is visible at the foot level, the strong mora is visible at the syllabic level and so on. Each peak constitutes the head of each layer. Prosodic constituents impose sonority threshold on the bottom of their heads. The Ω node inherits its overall sonority value from the segments it immediately dominates, C1 and C2. In the case of onsets, different languages impose different sonority conditions on onsets. Sonority restrictions on onsets, unlike on other prosodic constituents, are not minimal sonority requirements, rather, they are maximal requirements. The typology of onset clusters SO SS OO OS can be accounted for by placing maximal sonority restrictions on Ω. REFERENCES deLacy, P. (2004). Markedness conflation in Optimality Theory. Phonology, 21(2), Levin, J. (1985). A Metrical Theory of Syllabicity. Ph.D. dissertation, MIT. Steriade, D. (1982). Greek Prosodies and the Nature of Syllabification. Ph.D. dissertation, MIT. Zec (2000). Multiple sonority thresholds. In Holloway King and Sekerina (Eds.), Formal Approaches to Slavic Linguistics: The Philadelphia Meeting ( ). Ann Arbor: Michigan Slavic Publications. Zec (2007) The syllable. In Paul deLacy The Cambridge Handbook of Phonology. Cambridge: Cambridge UP. PROPOSAL Ω is subject to sonority constraints imposed on it, as sonority threshold requirements are imposed on other prosodic units (de Lacy 2004, Zec 2007 and references therein). Prosodic constituents gain their sonority value through a process of feature percolation as outlined in Zec (2000). In the column onset the maximal sonority values admitted by every language type for the constituent Ω are listed. These maximal sonority values interact with the constraints listed in the additional column additional constraints. If a language admits onsets which have the overall value [–son], and has a constraint which specifies that C2 must have a greater sonority value than C1, the language will only admit OS clusters, as in a type 1 language. If a language allows Ωs to have the maximal overall sonority value [–son] but the sonority value of C2 is equal to or greater than C1, then the language will admit both OS and OO clusters, as in a type 2 language. Type 3 languages, which admits OS, OO and SS clusters allows C1 and C2 to have the same sonority value and requires that the overall sonority value of the Ω be [+cons]. Type 4 languages require that Ω be [+cons] but imposes no additional restrictions on the relative sonority of C1 and C2. The restrictions impose on the onset as a sub-syllabic constituent, account for the sonority patterns we observe cross- linguistically and for the tendency of syllables to rise in sonority. The onset as a sub-syllabic constituent also enables us to give a unified phonological representation for all cluster types accounting for the cross- linguistic distributional typology of various cluster types.


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