In languages with vowel harmony processes, a segment which fails to undergo harmony may be either transparent (skipped by harmony) or opaque (blocking further propagation of harmony). Furthermore, in languages with multiple non-undergoers, some segments may be treated as transparent while others are opaque. Several explanations have been proposed to explain these asymmetries in transparency and opacity. In this paper, the authors present experimental evidence which supports the claim that the choice between transparency and opacity is governed by the relative strength of competing harmony triggers. In a nonce-word study of Finnish disharmonic loanwords, subjects were more likely to choose transparency when the initial trigger was a strong trigger, and more likely to choose transparency when the medial non-undergoer was a weak trigger.
Proceedings of the 30th West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics
edited by Nathan Arnett and Ryan Bennett
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