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Theoretical issues in Korean and English phonology

Shinsook Lee

Ph.D. Dissertation, 1994


In Autosegmental Phonology, the phonological component is seen as a set of interacting submodules, such as Feature Geometry, Underspecification, Prosodic Lexical Phonology, and Optimality, rather than a homogeneous system. The goals of this dissertation are to evaluate these subsystems in relation to problematic phenomena of Korean and English phonology and to provide a more principled explanation of the latter. I show that the Revised Constriction Theory with the peripheral node, which groups labials and velars, not only expresses non-coronals as a natural class but also accounts for the asymmetry of Korean place assimilation. I also show that several phonological phenomena in Korean provide arguments for (Revised) Constriction Theory: the blocking effect of both underlying and derived palatals in umlaut, the fact that vowel palatalization is triggered only by coronal consonants, and the transparency of the vowels /i/ and /i/ in vowel harmony. I propose that front vowels should have both the coronal node and the feature value (-anterior) under it; I argue that this representation not only explains these phenomena in a principled way, but also provides insight into English palatalization as well. Concerning several prosodically-bounded processes, I show that dialect differences and lexical idiosyncracies relating to Stray Erasure in Korean receive a satisfactory explanation under Optimality Theory, which allows alternate rankings between the Korean-specific Peripherality Constraint and the universal Coda Sonority Constraint. Moreover, I propose an analysis of Coda Licensing in Korean, which appeals to the peripheral node, and argue that it is superior to other analyses, given that peripherality also crucially figures into place assimilation and Stray Erasure. For English, I show that the problem of bracketing paradoxes is resolved by positing the prosodic word. With the prosodic word, I account for (a) the different behavior of several segmental rules with respect to level 1 and level 2 suffixes and (b) the alternation of inflectional morphemes as a single process of prosodic licensing.

Department of Linguistics University of Wisconsin-Madison

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