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Title:Vowel Weightlessness and Stress Retraction in Spanish
Authors:Carlos-Eduardo Pineros
Abstract:Vowel Weightlessness and Stress Retraction in Spanish

Carlos-Eduardo Piñeros

University of Iowa

This paper deals with the two most productive patterns of Spanish

primary stress: unmarked stress, which consists of projecting a word-

final trochee, (e.g. [pe.(pí.no) 'cucumber'), and retracted stress,

which assigns stress to the syllable immediately before the one that

would be the stress bearer if the unmarked word-final trochee were to be

projected (e.g. [es.tí.mu.lo] 'stimulus'). Focusing on proparoxytone

words, I present evidence that the foot they project is trisyllabic.

Such foot is not in violation of the universal binarity condition

imposed on metrical feet because it contains only two moras. What makes

this possible is that the nucleus of the middle syllable of the

trisyllabic foot is a weightless vowel (e.g. [i.(ló.xi.ko)], which is a

marked feature that characterizes certain Spanish morphemes. Because

Spanish learners are exposed to evidence that certain morphemes contain

a metrically irrelevant vowel, they posit underlying forms that carry

this information, which is then preserved in output forms to comply with

faithfulness constraints. I demonstrate that the assignment of primary

stress in Spanish is governed by three universal prosodic principles

requiring prosodic heads to be final and feet to be left-headed and

binary. Perfect satisfaction of these principles is only possible when

the final syllable is heavy and the word does not contain a marked

morpheme (e.g. [a.(mór)] 'love'). By contrast, if the word ends in a

light syllable or if it contains a morpheme with a metrically anomalous

vowel, stress needs to retract so that the prosodic constraints may be

optimally satisfied and prosodic heads are free of epenthetic elements.

This always happens at the cost of misaligning the main-stressed

syllable but not the main-stressed foot, which explains why stress must

fall on one of the last three syllables of the word. This proposal has

the advantage that it accounts for stress retraction without having to

resort to arbitrary re-ranking of the constraints, as all previous

constraint-based analyses have been forced to do.

KEYWORDS: Stress retraction, Syllable weight, Metrical structure,

Type:Paper/tech report
Article:Version 1