Prosodic structure in Ixtayutla Mixtec: Evidence for the foot

  • Author / Creator
    Penner, Kevin
  • Research on Mixtec languages (Otomanguean, Mexico), has long recognized a bimoraic/bisyllabic “couplet” as an essential structure for the description of the phonology and morphology (e.g. Pike 1948; Josserand 1983); however, what exactly this structure is in terms of the structure of the word, as well as the nature and extent of its influence in the grammar has not been adequately addressed. Most researchers have assumed that the couplet is the root, but this is problematic since some synchronic roots are larger than a couplet, other couplets are multimorphemic and some couplets have a reduced form when not the stressed element in compounds. For a more adequate understanding of this structure, I turn to prosodic phonology where units of higher level phonological organization arranged in what is called the prosodic hierarchy form the domains for phonological patterns and provide the shapes of templates. Of particular relevance to the problem at hand is the foot, which is identified in the literature as a constituent between the syllable and the prosodic word in the prosodic hierarchy (Selkirk 1980a; Selkirk 1980b). Cross-linguistically, the foot is integrally connected to stress assignment, has a small inventory of basic shapes, plays an important templatic function in the synchronic and diachronic phonology of many languages and provides the domain for phonological rules and phonotactic generalizations.In this dissertation I show that the couplet in Ixtayutla Mixtec (IM), an underdescribed Mixtec variety spoken in Oaxaca, Mexico has all of these properties of the foot. I first show that the couplet is the locus of stress assignment in IM, a structure intermediate in size between the syllable and prosodic word and has the shape identified as a moraic trochee in Hayesʼ (1995) inventory of foot types. Although IM stress is not the iterative kind usually used in metrical arguments for the foot, Spanish loanword adaptation in IM clearly demonstrates that stress is obligatorily realized in a left-headed, bimoraic structure.Strong evidence that the couplet is a foot comes from the way this structure to which stress is assigned also functions templatically to create foot-sized structures. As the minimal word/root template, the foot triggers the synchronic augmentation of underlyingly monomoraic /CV(ˀ)/ structures to bimoraic CV(ˀ)V. Fossilized stems also show how subminimal forms were combined to create foot-sized stems at an earlier stage of the phonology, while at the same time the foot provides a template for the truncation of larger structures down to foot-size. Beyond mere size/shape, evidence for foot structure is seen, for instance, in the loss of unfooted, and therefore prosodically weak, pre-couplet vowels, as well as the loss of couplet-medial consonants, which stand in the weak position of the trochaic foot. Like the foot, the couplet also provides the domain for the realization of a number of diverse phonological patterns including distributional restrictions on contrastive laryngealization, nasalized segments, vowels, labial consonants, epenthetic laryngealization and tone. The end result of the foot-based analysis provided is in this dissertation a coherent explanation for a disparate set of phonological patterns encompassing the synchronic and the diachronic dimensions of the phonology.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2019
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
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