Syncope in the Verbal Prefixes of Tlingit: Meter and Surface Phonotactics
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
This study presents an extended discussion and analysis of a seemingly idiosyncratic syncope process governing the verbal prefix string of Tlingit, a highly endangered and understudied Na-Dene language of Southeast Alaska and Northern British Columbia.
The author argues for a constraint-based analysis of this alternation, formulated within the specific framework of Optimality Theory. Under this analysis, the Tlingit syncope alternation functions to improve the overall metrical well-formedness of the resulting word.
Moreover, much of the apparently irregular character of the rule is shown to follow from independently visible phonotactic constraints operating over distinct sub-portions of the verbal prefix string.
This monograph may thus be considered a contribution to the growing literature seeking to analyze the notoriously complex prefixal allomorphy of the Na-Dene languages in a constraint-based, output-oriented framework, and to understand aspects of this allomorphy in terms of the surface phonotactics of the prefix string itself. The proposed analysis bears on various wider debates and issues within phonological theory, such as the analysis of syllable contact phenomena and anti-gemination, the empirical justification of prosodic domains, the mapping between prosodic domains and morphosyntactic structure, whether prosodic domains may overlap, and the ways in which metrical structure can be detected.
Seth Cable is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He has contributed theoretical papers on the syntax, morphology and phonology of Tlingit to the published proceedings of WSCLA 10, WSCLA 11, TLS 9 and NELS 36. He has also composed descriptive reference material on the syntax of Tlingit for the Sealaska Heritage Institute.
ISBN 9783895863776. LINCOM Studies in Native American Linguistics 53. 84pp. 2006.