LINGUIST List 10.1933

Tue Dec 14 1999

Review: Kager et al.: Prosody-Morphology Interface

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  1. mike_maxwell, review of "The Prosody-Morphology Interface"

Message 1: review of "The Prosody-Morphology Interface"

Date: Mon, 29 Nov 1999 15:42:43 -0500
From: mike_maxwell <>
Subject: review of "The Prosody-Morphology Interface"

Kager, Rene; van der Hulst, Harry; and Zonneveld, Wim (eds.). 1999. 
The Prosody-Morphology Interface. Cambridge: Cambridge University 
Press. 442 Pages. $69.95 (hardback). 

Reviewed by Mike Maxwell, Summer Institute of Linguistics. 

This book contains ten of the sixteen papers presented at a workshop 
on prosodic morphology in 1994 at Utrecht University. The theory of 
prosodic morphology was originally developed in papers by McCarthy 
and Prince, particularly McCarthy and Prince (1990). As it happened, 
the authors soon rendered their own theory obsolescent by their new 
approach to phonology, Optimality Theory (henceforth OT). This book 
looks at the impact of OT on the theory of prosodic morphology. 

The work begins with a brief introduction by Rene Kager and Wim 
Zonneveld to the history of phonology (starting with SPE, Chomsky 
and Halle 1968), the (short) history of prosodic morphology, an 
introduction to OT, and finally a synopsis of the other papers. 

I suspect that most readers not already familiar with the theories 
will find Kager and Zonneveld's necessarily brief overview of 
phonology and morphology confusing. For example, it will be unclear 
why an SPE-type analysis requires the use of a diacritic feature for 
vowel harmony in Igbo (page 3). (Answer: it doesn't, although this 
is indeed how Chomsky and Halle analyzed it. But this particular 
use of diacritic features was abandoned shortly thereafter.) 
Another confusion is introduced by the statement that in Arabic, 
"consonants play the role of stems (or binyanim)" (page 5). In 
fact, a binyan is not a set of consonants, but more like a slot in a 
paradigm, combining a particular meaning with a particular templatic 

The remaining chapters consist of the papers themselves, which I 
will summarize and comment on in the following paragraphs. I have 
written "ROA" after the title where the paper is available for 
download from the Rutgers Optimality Archive 
(, although the version there might be 

- ------------------------------------- 

Stuart Davis "On the moraic representation of underlying geminates: 
evidence from prosodic morphology": Under one version of moraic 
phonology, geminates are represented as moraic consonants. In a 
language without a rule of "weight-by-position" (which would also 
assign a mora to a consonant in a syllable coda), syllables closed 
by a geminate consonant should then pattern with syllables 
containing a long vowel (because both of these syllable types would 
have two moras), and unlike open syllables or syllables closed by a 
non-geminate consonant. The existence of such languages has been 
doubted. Davis uses evidence from phonology and prosodic morphology 
to argue that such languages do exist. However, the morphological 
evidence seems questionable, given the non-derivational assumptions 
of OT. Davis' analysis of CVC syllables in Hausa as monomoraic, for 
example, depends on a derivational analysis with ordered rules, 
incompatible with a pure OT analysis. (See Davis' footnote six.) 

There is a typo in example (4e) (page 40): the stressed vowel should 
be long (a short vowel here would be unstressed). 

Laura Downing "Verbal reduplication in three Bantu languages": 
Downing contrasts prefixing (and even infixing) reduplication in 
three Bantu languages. As usual in the OT literature, the 
differences are attributed largely to the relative ranking of the 
constraints governing the form of the reduplicant. But unlike 
earlier analyses, the author argues that (for two of the languages) 
the template for reduplication must be defined in terms of the 
"canonical verb stem", a definition which is not purely prosodic 
(prosodic constituents include the mora, syllable, foot, and 
prosodic word). I might also add that while proponents of OT have 
often claimed that the constraints which the theory manipulates are 
universal, actual analyses often contain constraints that are 
clearly non-universal. Downing's analysis is no exception, for 
example (her (37) page 83, for Kinande): 

At least one stem vowel (excluding the final vowel) of the 
morphological stem must have a correspondent in the prosodic filter. 

Larry Hyman and Al Mtenje "Prosodic morphology and tone: the case of 
Chichewa": This is not an article for the faint-hearted (or the 
reviewer on a deadline!), for the depth of detail, dialectal 
variation, and alternative analyses which the authors examine (or 
which the reader may imagine) make for a hard read. Hyman and 
Mtenje argue that a level-ordered (derivational) analysis fails to 
explain tone in reduplicated forms in Chichewa (Bantu), and that an 
OT analysis is superior. But we have not heard the last word, for 
the OT analysis has difficulties, too: they admit (in footnote 26) 
that in at least one case, a derivational analysis achieves 
observational adequacy where the OT analysis does not, and elsewhere 
(page 117 and footnote 29) allude to the need for "repair 
strategies" a la Paradis (1988), something which is outside the 
scope of 'true' OT. 

Sharon Inkelas "Exceptional stress-attracting suffixes in Turkish: 
representations versus the grammar" (ROA): A common assumption is 
that metrification is not stored lexically. Morphemes which are 
exceptions to the usual stress patterns of the language must then be 
treated by morpheme-specific constraints (MSC) in the grammar (i.e. 
phonology). Inkelas argues that marking exceptional metrical 
structure in the lexicon is explanatorily superior to the MSC 
solution, which in turn has implications for the use of prosodic 
templates in reduplication (see McCarthy and Prince article below). 
I might add that the MSC solution is vague, in that it is not clear 
how a constraint specifies a morpheme: does it point to the lexical 
entry, or to an underlying form? The answer to this question has 
important implications for A-Morphous morphology (Anderson 1992), 
the Separation Hypothesis (Beard 1995), and suppletive allomorphy. 

Junko Ito and Armin Mester "Realignment": In a paper devoted largely 
to phonology, Ito and Mester propose that syllabification should be 
seen as the result of constraints on alignment. As in much work in 
OT, this approach calls for a family of very general constraints, 
e.g. "Align a consonant with the left boundary of a syllable". 
Individual languages rank more specific forms of these constraints, 
e.g. "Align an obstruent...". 

One of the claims of OT is that constraints are universal, and that 
languages differ only in the ranking of those universal constraints. 
But I fail to see a substantial difference in universality between a 
family of constraints represented universally by a general 
constraint (as in Ito and Mester's proposal), and a rule-schema such 
as "spread a single feature node" in the later versions of 
derivational autosegmental phonology. 

Another issue Ito and Mester bring up in passing is the function of 
constraints: "We hypothesize that segment-alignment constraints are 
related to a more fundamental requirement: segments should be 
prominent" (page 199). But it is unclear how this functionalist 
approach can be reconciled with the idea that the constraints are 

John McCarthy and Alan Prince "Faithfulness and identity in prosodic 
morphology" (ROA): This is by far the longest paper in this 
collection, and best read first, since many of the other papers are 
reactions to it. McCarthy and Prince begin by revising their 
earlier theory of prosodic morphology, in which the content of e.g. 
reduplicative morphemes was characterized in prosodic terms (as a 
syllable, foot, minimal word etc.), in favor of their 
characterization as affix, root, stem or word; the prosodic form 
then follows (indirectly) from constraints on the shape of those 
morphemes or words. (See Inkelas' article above for one reaction to 

The authors then turn to languages with reduplicative morphology in 
which a phonological process appears to apply to both base and the 
reduplicant, even though from a purely phonological viewpoint it 
would be expected to apply only to one or the other. Their 
analysis, based on a constraint calling for identity between Base 
and Reduplicant (B/R identity, parallel to the I/O faithfulness 
constraint holding between Input and Output forms), seems strong 
evidence in favor of OT and against a derivational account. (An 
earlier derivational analysis, Wilbur 1973, relied on an otherwise 
unattested notion of identity between a constituent and its copy. 
It might however be interesting to seek a connection between Wibur's 
approach and later work on geminate inalterability in derivational 

An interesting implication of the OT analysis in which B/R identity 
may be ranked below (less important than) I/O faithfulness, is that 
other phonological constraints may be ranked in between these. In 
particular, constraints on prosodic shape of affixes, roots etc. may 
be ranked lower than I/O faithfulness. With "ordinary" affixation, 
such constraints would not be evident, being masked by the I/O 
identity. But since reduplicants do not have any input, these 
constraints manifest themselves in reduplication. McCarthy and 
Prince refer to the unmasking of such constraints in reduplicated 
forms as "the emergence of the unmarked." (There is an un-addressed 
question here: if the ranking of these constraints is visible only 
in reduplicative constructions, is that ranking more difficult to 

Joe Pater "Austronesian nasal substitution and other NC effects" 
(the "C" has the IPA symbol for voicelessness under it; for 
typological reasons, I use "C" here to mean "voiceless consonant") 
(ROA): In another paper largely about phonology, Pater argues that 
while languages get rid of sequences of Nasal+C sequences in a 
variety of ways (fusing the N+C into a nasal with point of 
articulation of the C, or voicing the C, or deleting the N, etc.), 
all these effects are the result of a single universal constraint 
against a nasal followed by a voiceless consonant, a constraint he 
characterizes as "hugging the phonetic ground." (A non-OT analysis 
might be that phonological processes doing away with N+C sequences 
arise diachronically for phonetic reasons, and that what can be 
explained functionally does not need to be explained by a universal 

In some languages, there is a complication: N+C fuse into N only at 
morpheme boundaries (a derived environment effect). Pater accounts 
for this by splitting one of the constraints into a root-internal 
constraint and a general constraint, with the former more highly 
ranked. (Is this a stipulation, or an explanation? Do all 
constraints come in two such versions?) 

Sam Rosenthall "The prosodic base of the Hausa plural": This paper 
explores the formation of sound and broken plurals in several Hausa 
noun classes. (In Hausa "broken plurals", part of the stem appears 
inside the plural suffix, or vice versa.) The analysis refers 
explicitly to various iambic templates (H, HH, LH, where L = Light 
syllable, and H = Heavy), as in the version of prosodic morphology 
developed in McCarthy and Prince (1990). It might prove challenging 
to reformulate Rosenthall's insights in terms of the version of 
prosodic morphology in McCarthy and Prince's article in this book 
(see above). Unfortunately, this point is not expanded on. 

Grazyna Rowicka "Prosodic optimality and prefixation in Polish": 
Rowicka gives a clever solution to the much-discussed problem of 
"yers": vowels (in Slavic languages) whose appearance is governed by 
the presence of a following (non-appearing) yer. The solution 
relies on the possibility that in a single language (and even a 
single word), there may be both syllable-based and mora-based feet, 
a controversial claim. The connection with prosodic morphology lies 
in the idea that in Polish, prefixes are not normally included in 
the prosodic word, but may be included to satisfy certain 

Suzanne Urbanczyk: "Double reduplications in parallel" (ROA): 
Lushootseed (Salishan) has several reduplicative affixes; two such 
affixes can attach to a single word, and Broselow (1983) had used 
the properties of such "double reduplications" to support cyclic 
rule application. Urbanczyk argues that in the context of OT, the 
data provide no evidence for cyclicity. Her analysis relies on 
morpheme-specific constraints (one morpheme obeys a faithfulness 
constraint, while the other violates it in the relevant 
construction). An apparent alternative within OT would be two sets 
of constraint rankings, plus cyclic application of the constraints. 
One affix would belong to one of these co-phonologies, and the other 
affix to the other co-phonology, similar to the rule strata of 
Lexical Phonology. But Urbanczyk shows that this alternative does 
not account for the dependence of the shape of the inner affix on 
that of the outer affix. The downside of her analysis is the need 
for morpheme-specific constraints, but the putative universal status 
of constraints in other OT work seems doubtful in any case (see my 
earlier comments on Downing's and Ito and Mester's papers). 


The editing has been done well, save that typesetting has slightly 
mangled some constraint names. There are separate indices for 
subjects, constraints, languages, and linguists' names. 

I close with a general comment. Perhaps the greatest shortcoming of 
this book is the delay between the workshop in 1994 and publication 
of (a subset of) the papers in 1999, particularly unfortunate given 
the rapid changes in OT during those years. Possibly some of the 
papers have been revised in the interim. (An occasional footnote 
reflects input from the conference, and there are some references 
with publication dates up through 1999, albeit mostly by the authors 
themselves.) As noted earlier, many of the papers have been made 
available in the Rutgers Optimality Archive in the interim, and 
other authors (e.g. Downing) have published revised analyses 
elsewhere, which further reduces the interest of this printed book. 
The delay would have been more understandable if there had been more 
added value to the book, such as inclusion of the discussion from 
the floor. 



Anderson, Stephen. 1992. A-Morphous Morphology. Cambridge. 
Cambridge Studies in Linguistics 62. Cambridge: Cambridge 
University Press. 

Beard, Robert. 1995. Lexeme-Morpheme Base Morphology. Albany, NY: 
SUNY Press. 

Broselow, Ellen I. 1983. "Salish double reduplications: Subjacency 
in morphology." NLLT 1: 317-346. 

Chomsky, Noam; and Morris Halle. 1968. The Sound Pattern of English. 
New York: Harper and Row. 

McCarthy, John J.; and Alan S. Prince. 1990. "Foot and Word in 
Prosodic Morphology: the Arabic broken plural." NLLT 8: 209-283. 

Paradis, Carole. 1988. "On constraints and repair strategies." 
Linguistic Review 6: 71-97. 

Wilbur, Ronnie. 1973. "The phonology of reduplication." Ph.D. 
dissertation, University of Illinois; published (1973) by the IULC. 


Reviewer: Mike Maxwell has a Ph.D. in linguistics from the 
University of Washington. He has been a consultant for field 
linguists working in indigenous languages of Ecuador and Colombia, 
and now works in computational morphology and phonology. 

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