Current phonological theory generally assumes that syllabification is absent from underlying representations because it is never used contrastively among the world's languages: tautomorphemic contrasts of the type a.ka vs. ak.a or ak.la vs. a.kla have never been convincingly documented. However, it is a matter of debate whether the absence of contrastive syllabification is a universal property of languages, or whether it is simply an empirical problem. This paper presents data from Blackfoot (Algonquian: Alberta and Montana) that contain tautomorphemic contrasts in syllabification, and discusses the implications of the data for the debate raised above. While apparently filling a typological gap in syllabification patterns, it is argued that the syllabification contrasts found in Blackfoot do not require the specification of syllable structure in the underlying representation. Instead, this paper proposes that the data can be accounted for by assuming only that moras are specified in the underlying representation, and that contrastive syllabification is the means by which Blackfoot speakers retain these underlying moraic contrasts on the surface. By assuming that weight rather than syllabification is contrastive in Blackfoot, the analysis fulfills implicit predictions made by moraic theory and accounts for some of the phonotactic and phonetic patterns specific to Blackfoot which receive only an arbitrary treatment under a syllabic account.
Proceedings of the 25th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics
edited by Donald Baumer, David Montero, and Michael Scanlon
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