The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Extended visit and mini-course: Emily Elfner (York University)

We are delighted to announce that Emily Elfner will be here for an extended visit, during which she will give a mini course in two parts, details below.

Speaker: Emily Elfner (York University)
Time: Wednesday, December 5th, 1pm-2:30pm; Thursday, December 6th, 12:30pm-2pm
Place: 32-D461

In recent years, there has been considerable renewed interest in debates regarding the syntax-prosody interface and the source of prosodic domains. Broadly speaking, there are two types of approaches to the “discovery” of prosodic domains: an “intonation first” model, which derives prosodic domains on the basis of observable phonological processes (such as intonational patterns, gradient phonetic markers to prosodic boundaries, and domain-sensitive phonological processes), and a “syntax first” model, which derives prosodic domains on the basis of syntactic constituent structure. Within these two extremes, most approaches to the syntax-prosody interface will assume a middle ground, with an implicit assumption that both syntax and phonology should be taken into account in the positing and diagnosing of prosodic domains. However, modelling the exact contribution of each part has proven to be difficult to determine and subject to some debate.

In this mini-course, I will provide an overview and critical analysis of a current “hybrid” approach to the syntax-prosody interface, Match Theory (Selkirk 2011), which incorporates a direct approach to syntax-prosody mapping under the guise of Prosodic Hierarchy Theory. Match Theory may be considered to be a “syntax first” model because it assumes that the origin of prosodic domains lies in the syntactic component, and that these are mapped onto the phonological component, specifically, the prosodic hierarchy, via a family of violable MATCH constraints. However, because these constraints are violable and evaluated in the phonological component (as in an OT model), mismatches, as observed via domain-sensitive phonological processes, can be accounted for systematically using violable prosodic markedness constraints that interact with the relevant MATCH constraints. Thus, while prosodic domains are mapped directly from syntactic structure, resulting in recursive prosodic domains, phonological and intonational processes can still be used as evidence to help diagnose and define the edges and scope of prosodic domains. The positing of prosodic domains is thus approached from both sides (syntax and phonology), meeting in the middle. This approach to the syntax-prosody interface has important consequences for our understanding of the syntax-prosody interface and the continuing role of the prosodic hierarchy in accounting for phrase-level phonological processes.