Harmony in Gestural Phonology [Dissertation]
Caitlin Smith
August 2018

In this dissertation, I develop the Gestural Harmony Model, a model of harmony situated within a phonological framework that assumes gestures as the units of subsegmental representation. Originally developed within Articulatory Phonology (Browman & Goldstein 1986, 1989, et seq.), gestures are dynamically defined units of phonological representation that are specified for a target articulatory state of the vocal tract. In the Gestural Harmony Model, harmony is triggered when a gesture extends its period of activation and overlaps other segments in a word. To model this ability of a gesture to extend its activation, I propose the addition of two new parameters to the representation of gestures: persistence and anticipation. With the addition of these parameters, gestures can be specified as either self-deactivating or persistent (non-selfdeactivating), and as either self-activating or anticipatory (early-activating). A persistent gesture is one that does not self-deactivate when its goal articulatory state is achieved, thus overlapping following segments and triggering progressive (rightward) harmony. An anticipatory gesture is one that is activated early, thus overlapping preceding segments and triggering regressive (leftward) harmony. In addition to these representational innovations, I develop a phonological grammar, situated within the framework of Optimality Theory (Prince & Smolensky 1993/2004), that operates over gestural representations. The presence of harmony in a language is attributed to whether the segments in a language’s surface phonological inventory contain persistent and/or anticipatory gestures. As a result, in the Gestural Harmony Model patterns of harmony triggering result from the interaction of markedness and faithfulness constraints that shape the surface inventory and determine the distributions of the segments in that inventory. One of the major advantages of the approach to harmony triggering in the Gestural Harmony Model is that harmony systems in which bearers of a harmonizing property idiosyncratically trigger or fail to trigger harmony can be attributed to preservation of a contrast between persistent and self-deactivating gestures in the case of progressive harmony, and anticipatory and self-activating gestures in the case of regressive harmony. This approach to harmony triggering avoids the pathological predictions made by some other analyses of phonological idiosyncrasy and exceptionality. The Gestural Harmony Model’s representation of harmony also proves advantageous in the analysis of transparency and blocking. In this model, transparency and blocking are the results of two distinct theoretical mechanisms, successfully accounting for the distinct crosslinguistic patterns in the attestation of transparent and blocking segments in some types of harmony. I analyze transparent segments as undergoers of harmony that include in their representations a gesture that is antagonistic to a harmonizing gesture. Antagonistic gestures are those that are specified for directly conflicting target articulatory states of the vocal tract, and as a result enter into competition with one another. Transparency arises when intergestural competition is resolved in favor of the gesture of the transparent segment due to its greater specified gestural strength. Blocking of harmony, on the other hand, results from a different theoretical mechanism: intergestural inhibition, by which one gesture deactivates another. The Gestural Harmony Model’s splitting of transparency and blocking among two distinct theoretical mechanisms makes several advantageous typological predictions. Chief among these is that in some types of harmony, the set of attested transparent segments is a subset of the set of attested blocking segments. This is attributed to the idea that only certain types of segments possess the gestural makeup necessary to surface as transparent to harmony when overlapped by a harmonizing gesture.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/004180
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: University of Southern California dissertation
keywords: harmony; vowel harmony; vowel-consonant harmony; gestures; gestural phonology; articulatory phonology, phonology
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