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Title:Resolving Hiatus
Authors:Roderic F. Casali
Comment:Slightly revised version of UCLA dissertation. Requires SIL IPA fonts.
Abstract:Resolving Hiatus

Roderic F. Casali

UCLA, 1996

Professor Donca Steriade, Chair

An examination of 92 languages which resolve hiatus through

Vowel Elision and/or Coalescence (merger) reveals two correlations

that pose interesting challenges for phonological theory. First, in

certain contexts the vowel targeted by Elision is universally

predictable. At (non-function) word boundaries for example, languages

consistently elide the leftmost (word-final) vowel. Second, the type

of Coalescence possible in a language depends on the language's vowel

inventory. While seven-vowel systems coalesce /a+i/ to [E], for

example, nine-vowel systems coalesce this sequence to [e]. These

generalizations are analyzed within the framework of Optimality Theory.

My analysis of Elision assumes that languages make greater effort

to preserve features occurring in certain phonetically or semantically

prominent positions (e.g. in roots). Corresponding to these are a

series of position-sensitive Faithfulness constraints requiring

preservation of features in these positions. The possible rankings of

these constraints yield an Elision typology in good agreement with

attested patterns.

The Coalescence correlations strongly suggest that the height features

of a vowel depend on the inventory in which the vowel occurs, a claim

supported by other facts as well. I propose that (auditorily defined)

height features are assigned to vowel systems via best satisfaction of

a set of constraints on height specification, for example a constraint

requiring minimal use of certain features. The specifications assigned

to a given vowel system will, in conjunction with a uniform ranking of

Faithfulness constraints that characterizes Height Coalescence across

all the systems, correctly generate the possible patterns in that type

of system.

In its prototypical form, Elision is position-sensitive: the elided

segment is the one that occupies a particular position. (Symmetric)

Coalescence, on the other hand, is feature-sensitive: the resulting

vowel retains the most highly-preferred features from the original

vowels. Also attested are a "Feature-Sensitive" Elision process in

which the vowel preserved is the one which possesses particular

feature(s), and a type of "Asymmetric" Coalescence, in which positional

and featural preferences both play a role. All four processes are

correctly generated by the analysis, arising under different

permutations of the same constraints posited to account for Elision

and Coalescence in their prototypical incarnations.
Article:Version 1