Laura Downing at LEL Research Seminar

Posted on December 3, 2014 by

For the final LEL Research Seminar of the semester, Laura Downing (Gothenburg) will be presenting on The limits of recursion in eliminating prosodic categories: a case study from Shona (Bantu). The talk is on Tuesday 9th Dec at 4.15pm in Samuel Alexander A7, and reports joint work with Maxwell Kadenge (University of the Witwatersrand). Here’s the abstract:

In the traditional Prosodic Hierarchy (e.g. Nespor & Vogel 1986; Selkirk 1986), the Prosodic Word is the only sub-phrasal level. Recent work like Itô & Mester (2013) reaffirms this, defining Prosodic Word as matching the syntactic category X (N, V, A). Other sub-phrasal prosodic domains must, in their framework, be cast as recursions of Prosodic Word. This claim is rather surprising, as it is uncontroversial that many languages have phonological processes that take some domain smaller than the morphological word, for example, systematically excluding particular affixes from the domain. Work like Kiparsky (2000) and Bermudez-Otero (2011) proposes a distinction between a stem-level vs. word-level domain to account for such phonological processes. Robust phonological evidence for a stem vs. word distinction comes from many agglutinative languages, such as Bantu languages (also Athapaskan and Salishan). As Czaykowska-Higgins (1996, 1998), Downing (1999), Inkelas (1990) and McDonough (1990) argue, we also find mismatches between the morphological stem and the equivalent prosodic domain which motivate the Prosodic Stem as a sublexical level of the Prosodic Hierarchy. In this talk we provide new evidence for the Prosodic Stem from Zezuru Shona (the native language of the second author), based on a reanalysis of Myers’s (1987) thorough study of Shona prosody as well as new data. The talk will demonstrate, first, that one must distinguish between word-level vs. a stem-level phonological domains in Shona and, second, that these two domains are best characterized through a distinction between Prosodic Word and Prosodic Stem. The distinction cannot be recast, following Itô & Mester (2013), as recursive Prosodic Word without loss of generalisation.