LINGUIST List 14.1002

Fri Apr 4 2003

Diss: Phonology: Steele "Representation..."

Editor for this issue: Anita Yahui Huang <>


  1. jeffrey.steele, Phonology: Steele "Representation and phonological licensing..."

Message 1: Phonology: Steele "Representation and phonological licensing..."

Date: Wed, 02 Apr 2003 11:05:12 +0000
From: jeffrey.steele <>
Subject: Phonology: Steele "Representation and phonological licensing..."

Institution: McGill University
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2002

Author: Jeffrey Wayne Steele 

Dissertation Title: 

Representation and phonological licensing in the L2 acquisition of
prosodic structure

Linguistic Field: Phonology, Language Acquisition 

Subject Language:
French (code: 1843)
English (code: 1738)
Chinese, Mandarin (code: 1220)

Dissertation Director 1: Heather Goad

Dissertation Abstract: 

It is widely recognized that differences in both prosodic complexity
and position-sensitive contrasts exist both within and across
languages. In contemporary phonological theory, these differences are
often attributed to differences between heads and non-heads and the
asymmetries in licensing potential that exist between such positions.

In this thesis, the consequences of such differences for the second
language (L2) acquisition of prosodic complexity and
position-sensitive contrasts are explored. It is argued that an
explanatorily adequate account of L2 syllabification must include
highly-structured representations as well as a theory of licensing,
which distinguishes between the licensing of a given position and the
licensing of featural content in such a position. Using data drawn
primarily from a number of studies that investigate the acquisition of
French by native speakers of English and Mandarin, it is demonstrated
that the widely-attested interlanguage (IL)
syllable-structure-modification processes of deletion, epenthesis, and
feature change have a common source. Specifically, all three processes
result from the IL grammar's inability to license a syllable position
or (some of) the featural content present in such a position in the
target representation. Within Optimality theory, the framework
adopted, this is formalized through the competition between
Faithfulness constraints and Markedness constraints, which evaluate
the wellformedness of the licensing relationships. Finally, it is
argued that Prosodic Licensing and the principle of Licensing
Inheritance from Harris (1997) work together to encode prosodic
markedness in representation, as they create a series of
head-dependent asymmetries in which heads are strong licensors
vis-�-vis their dependents.
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