The use of prosody as a diagnostic for syntactic structure: The case of verb-initial order
Lauren Clemens
December 2019

A major challenge in developing prosodic arguments to support or refute syntactic analyses is to discern when prosody transparently reflects syntax, verses when the correspondence between syntax and prosody is obscured by phonological, architectural, or mapping constraints. In this paper, I use data from Ch'ol (Mayan) and Niuean (Polynesian) to assess the efficacy of acoustic cues to prosodic constituency as a diagnostic for syntactic structure in the realm of verb-initial (V1) languages. I demonstrate how arguments based on prosodic constituency can successfully reduce the hypothesis space available to syntactic analysis. Nonetheless, the insight gained from prosodic constituency can fall short of distinguishing between syntactic accounts, because syntax-prosody non-isomorphisms do arise. This problem can be addressed by using a variety of methodologies in search of converging evidence, e.g. using syntactic and prosodic argumentation in tandem and by collecting and analyzing more prosodic data in order to better understand the prosodic systems of individual languages.
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Reference: lingbuzz/004916
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keywords: syntax, prosody, v1 languages
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