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Welsh Svarabhakti: Sonority Sequencing an Foot Structure


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It has long been observed that certain final consonant clusters in Welsh may provoke vowel epenthesis (svarabhakti), deletion of one member of the cluster, or metathesis. These clusters consist of a consonant followed by [r], [l] or [n]; other sorts of final clusters are permitted. The occurrence of epenthesis, deletion or metathesis, moreover, depends not only on the type of cluster involved, but also on the prosodic size of the input form. I argue in this paper that these three processes – epenthesis, deletion and metathesis – are all directly connected. All arise in order to avoid a sonority sequencing violation: an obstruent followed by a sonorant in a final cluster represents illicit rising sonority in a coda. To account for the data at hand, the analysis will rely on the interaction between several constraints, including a constraint militating against epenthesis, a constraint militating against deletion, and a constraint working against metathesis. The interaction of these constraints serves to capture the effects of epenthesis, deletion and metathesis in avoiding a violation of the undominated 'sonority sequencing' constraint. In addition, prosodic structure will be shown to play a role in deciding between epenthesis (which occurs in the case of a monosyllabic input form), and deletion or metathesis (which occurs when the input form is bisyllabic). Finally, account will also be given for the fact that the epenthetic vowel is a copy of the stem vowel (rather than simply a 'default' vowel such as schwa) by means of a correspondence relation between the epenthetic vowel and the underlying stem vowel.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2009

More about this publication?
  • The Journal of Celtic Linguistics publishes articles and reviews on all aspects of the linguistics of the Celtic languages, modern, medieval and ancient, with particular emphasis on synchronic studies, while not excluding diachronic and comparative-historical work. This journal is of great interest to students of languages and Celtic studies, as well as members of the general public interested in the linguistic progression within Celtic languages and linguistic history. The editor is Lecturer in the Welsh Department at Aberystwyth University, and is supported by an editorial board including representatives from Oxford and Cambridge universities, and from universities across Europe and North America. Papers are invited in English, French or German on all fields/‘levels’ of analysis; phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, pragmatics; formal or functional, cross-language typological or language-internal, dialectological or sociolinguistic, any theoretical paradigm.

    Mae’r Journal of Celtic Linguistics yn cynnwys erthyglau ac adolygiadau ar bob agwedd ar ieithoedd Celtaidd - modern, canoloesol a hynafol - gyda phwyslais arbennig ar astudiaethau syncronig, a heb eithrio gwaith diacronig a hanesyddol-gymharol. Y mae’r cyfnodolyn hwn yn ddefnyddiol i fyfyrwyr sydd yn astudio ieithoedd ac astudiaethau Celtaidd, yn ogystal â darllenwyr sy’n ymddiddori yn hanes datblygiadau’r ieithoedd Celtaidd. Mae’r golygydd yn Ddarlithydd yn Adran y Gymraeg, Prifysgol Aberystwyth, ac yn cydweithio â’r bwrdd golygyddol sydd â chynrychiolaeth o brifysgolion Rhydychen, Caergrawnt, ac o brifysgolion ledled Ewrop a Gogledd America.

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