The role of attachment height in explaining prosodic phrasing in Rutooro
Lauren Clemens, Lee S. Bickmore
December 2019

Rutooro is a Bantu language of Uganda that lacks lexical tone. Instead, prominence in Rutooro is marked with a High tone (H) on the penultimate syllable of the phonological phrase (ϕ-phrase). Like many languages in the family, syntactic XPs reliably correspond to ϕ-phrases; however, we find a previously unattested pattern in the prosody of Rutooro adnominal phrases. Head nouns are marked H when they combine with strong determiners and full RCs. In contrast, nouns do not bear an H tone when they combine with weak determiners, adjectives, and reduced RCs. We propose that the distribution of H tones serves as a diagnostic for whether an adnominal is generated in a DP-internal or external position. Reduced object RCs with overt subjects are a special case: the relativized head bears an unexpected H tone, while the subject is all-Low despite the fact that it is a self-contained XP. Also in the realm of reduced RCs, when a relativized head is separated from the RC by an additional modifier, e.g. an adjective, that modifier is realized as all-Low even though it is phrasal. We hypothesize that the attested, nonisomorphic phrasing arose to prevent i) ambiguity and ii) prosodic indeterminacy—when prosodic structure could be the output of more than one syntactic configuration—and was subsequently grammaticalized.
Format: [ pdf ]
Reference: lingbuzz/004569
(please use that when you cite this article)
Published in: submitted
keywords: prosody, syntax, bantu, syntax, phonology
previous versions: v2 [April 2019]
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