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Title:Consonant Harmony in Child Language: An Optimality-theoretic Account
Authors:Heather Goad
Abstract:Consonant Harmony in Child Language:

An Optimality-theoreticAccount

Heather Goad

Department of Linguistics, McGill University


Ms. dated 1995. Currently in press in S.J. Hannahs & M.

Young-Scholten, _Focus on phonological acquisition_. Amsterdam:

John Benjamins, pp. 113-142.


An analysis is provided of the consonant harmony (CH) patterns

exhibited in the speech of one child, Amahl at Stage 1 (data from

Smith 1973). It is argued that the standard rule-based analysis

which involves Coronal underspecification and planar segregation

is not tenable. First, the data reveal an underspecification

paradox: coronal consonants are targets for CH and should thus be

unspecified for Coronal. However, they also trigger harmony,

in words where the targets are liquids. Second, the data are not

consistent with planar segregation, as one harmony pattern is

productive beyond the point when Amahl's grammar satisfies the

requirements for planar segregation (set forth in McCarthy 1989).

An alternative analysis is proposed within the constraint-based

framework of Optimality Theory (Prince & Smolensky 1993). It is

argued that CH follows from the relative ranking of constraints

which parse place features and those which align features with

the edges of the prosodic word. With the constraints responsible

for parsing and aligning Labial and Dorsal ranked above those

responsible for parsing and aligning Coronal, the dual behaviour

of coronals can be captured. The effect of planar segregation

follows from other independently motivated constraints which

force alignment to be satisfied through copying of segmental

material, not through spreading.

Keywords: first language acquisition, consonant harmony,

underspecification paradox
Type:Paper/tech report
Article:Version 1