Deriving sonority
Joaquim Brandão de Carvalho
March 2017

This paper aims to show that sonority-based generalizations on consonant phonotactics should directly follow from representations, not from stipulations on representations such as the commonly accepted licensing or government statements. The basic reason for this is that the second approach is both arbitrary and circular, as it entails a variable ranking of alleged well-formedness principles, if we want to explain, for example, why TR clusters may be either tautosyllabic or heterosyllabic depending on the language. I argue instead for a representational alternative assuming that (i) consonants and vowels are universally segregated, and (ii) involve two parallel CVCV sequences – one on the C-plane, the other on the V-plane – (iii) which may differ in length. It is shown how the major sonority categories, and thereby the phonotactic constraints based on these categories, naturally result from how the two CVCV sequences are synchronized if the one on the C-plane is longer than the one on the V-plane. It will also be seen how the proposed structures naturally account for several processes such as liquid metathesis and deletion, vowel epenthesis, plosive fricativization, etc., while providing a means for measuring the relative likelihood of some of them on the basis of representational markedness.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/004448
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: The linguistic review
keywords: phonotactics, consonant clusters, sonority, syllable structure, strict cv, phonology
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