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Cross-level interactions in West Germanic phonology and morphology

Laura Smith

Ph.D. Thesis, 2004


In the last decade, analyses of Germanic phenomena such as Old English High Vowel Deletion and Sievers' Law in Gothic have demonstrated the important role played by the trochaic foot in the history of Germanic (e.g., Dresher and Lahiri 1991, Kim 2000, etc.). Linguists such as Wiese (2000, 2001) and Booij (1998, 2002) have further shown how prosody can shape morphological and lexical patterns. However, little work to date has investigated the impact of prosody on both phonology and morphological classes diachronically. This dissertation addresses this issue, drawing upon data from West Germanic. Analyses are provided for the loss of i after heavy stems in both the Old Saxon i-stem nouns and Old High German jan-verbs in terms of prosodic templates. These templates define the necessary weight and size of the stem. A simple template consisting of a moraic trochee is shown to constrain the i-stem nouns while jan-verbs were shaped by complex templates minimally one foot, maximally disyllabic. These complex templates resulted from the convergence of prosodic requirements from multiple levels of the prosodic hierarchy. In both cases, i was lost when unmapped to the template; however, when it did map to the template, i was retained. It is shown that lower level phonotactics overrode the template if loss of i resulted in phonotactic violations. The diachronic developments are further linked to a number of modern synchronic problems, e.g., Dutch diminutives, German i-croppings and plurals in Dutch and German which are all shaped by the disyllabic trochee which serves as the template. These data underscore the influence that prosodic templates rather than feet alone exerted and continue to exert in shaping West Germanic phonology and morphology. All these phenomena share a common factor: all are affected by an underlying motivation for words in their respective paradigm cells to have a particular shape as prescribed by either simple or complex templates. Furthermore, these complex templates provide insight into the interaction of multiple levels of the prosodic hierarchy and the effects of these interactions. It is concluded that any phonological theory used to account for these phenomena must also be able to account for cross-level interaction.

Department of Linguistics University of Wisconsin-Madison

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