The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Phonology Circle 10/15: Olga Vaysman

Olga Vaysman (MIT) will be presenting in this week’s meeting of the Phonology Circle

Title: Segmental Alternations and Metrical Theory
Time: Wed 10/15, 5pm, 32-D831

This talk focuses on segmental alternations that are dependent on word-internal prosody, such as prominence and foot boundaries. Ever since the earliest work in metrical theory that introduced metrical foot (e.g. Liberman and Prince 1977) and in contemporary metrical theory (Hayes (1995), de Lacy (2004), among others) stress has customarily been considered to be synonymous to the notion of the head of the foot; stress is the main diagnostic for foot assignment in languages, as well as the main argument for the very existence of feet as constituents in the grammar. Some researchers, like Gordon (2003) argue that foot structure is not a notion we need to use to account for stress patterns at all.

Stress assignment, however, is not the only evidence for foot structure; segmental phenomena can be sensitive to foot structure as well. If, indeed, stressed vowels head feet, then rhythm-sensitive segmental alternations should follow the same footing pattern. If, on the other hand, the notion of prosodic constituency is independent from stress, we can expect mismatch between stress placement and foot assignment.

By exploring prosody-sensitive segmental alternations, I show that there is empirical, in addition to theory-internal, evidence that prominence and foot structure are distinct entities in the grammar. I further propose an OT-based model to account for the interaction of prosodic constituency and stress assignment.