|Title:||Headedness and Prosodic Licensing in the L1 Acquisition of Phonology|
|Abstract:|| With the emergence of Optimality Theory, where the burden of explanation is placed almost entirely on constraints, we have observed in the phonological literature a de-emphasis on the role of structural relationships that hold within and across segments. In this thesis, counter to the current trend, I argue that the most explanatory approach to phonological processes requires reference to highly-articulated representations. I explore a number of phenomena found in the first language acquisition of Québec French and argue that these phenomena are best captured in an analysis based on structurally-defined markedness, headedness in constituent structure, and relationships between segmental features and their prosodic licensors.
I demonstrate that headedness in constituent structure must be assigned to both input and output forms. In order to encode the dependency relations between input and output representations, I appeal to faithfulness constraints referring specifically to constituent heads. Output representations are regulated by markedness constraints governing complexity within constituents, as well as by licensing relationships that hold between segmental features and different levels of prosodic representation.
At all stages in the development of syllable structure and complex segments, when more than one option is available for the representation of a target string, children select the unmarked option, consistent with the long-held view that early grammars reflect what is unmarked. When input complex structures are reduced in children’s outputs, reduction operates in order to ensure faithfulness to the content of prosodic and segmental heads. Finally, in the discussion of consonant harmony, where the French data are supplemented by examples from English, I propose that consonant harmony results from a licensing relation between segmental features and the head of the foot. The differences in foot structure between French and English enable us to account for the contrasts observed between learners of the two languages.