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Prosodic Recursion and Syntactic Cyclicity inside the Word

Peter Guegkuezian
University of Rochester

Friday, November 3, 2017
3:30 p.m.–5:00 p.m.
513 Lattimore

The “word” seems to be a fundamental unit of human language across sub-fields: phonology, morphology, syntax, and even semantics rely on the notion of the “word” as a unit. Nevertheless, in each sub-field the word is a different type of unit with different diagnostic properties: a “phonological word” is a domain for stress, is subject to size requirements, while a “syntactic word” is a terminal node, which can be moved around with respect to other nodes. These different types of words may or may not be isomorphic: a syntactic word and a phonological word may correspond—often assumed to be the “default state”—but may not correspond at well (as in lexical compounding and cliticization). Moreover, these different types of words can all have internal structure, including syllables and Feet in a phonological word or stems and affixes in a morphological word. In this talk, I investigate an intersection of these two phenomena: what sort of isomorphy holds in the internal structure of words? Differently stated, can one type of sub-word unit be isomorphic to another type?

I provide evidence from Chukchansi Yokuts (Penutian: California) and Creek/Muskogee/Seminole (Muskogean: SE USA) that phonological sub-words can be isomorphic to other types of sub-words, as in (1).

(1)  /lihm   e                      t/                                 à        [lehe:met]

‘run’     ‘causative’       ‘recent.past’                à        “just made s.o. run”

Specifically, in these two languages, words can be composed of two separate morphosyntactic units, which correspond to different levels or cycles of the grammar (2). Words with two syntactic cycles display prosodic recursion, in which a minimal phonological word is nested inside a maximal phonological word (3).

(2)   Morphosyntax:

  1. Cycle One:       {‘run’}
  2. Cycle Two:       {‘run’+‘causative’+‘recent.past’}

(3)  Phonology:

  1. Minimal Word:           [lehe:]
  2. Maximal Word:           [lehe:met]

Both types of sub-word have diagnostic properties: the morphosyntactic cycles in (2) are reflected in compositionality and allomorphy, while the phonological words in (3) are reflected in size restrictions and stress placement. While the general pattern in these two languages is isomorphy between morphosyntactic and phonological sub-words, there are cases where the isomorphy is either disrupted or non-apparent. The conditions in which sub-word isomorphy does and does not hold sheds light on both the relationship between different types of words in language and how the words are composed.