LINGUIST List 14.3562

Mon Dec 22 2003

Diss: Phonology: Gessner: 'The Prosodic...'

Editor for this issue: Takako Matsui <>


  1. gessner, The Prosodic System of the Dakelh (Carrier) Language

Message 1: The Prosodic System of the Dakelh (Carrier) Language

Date: Fri, 19 Dec 2003 17:47:49 -0500 (EST)
From: gessner <>
Subject: The Prosodic System of the Dakelh (Carrier) Language

Institution: University of British Columbia
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2003

Author: Suzanne C Gessner

Dissertation Title: The Prosodic System of the Dakelh (Carrier)

Linguistic Field: Phonology, Phonetics, Morphology 
Subject Language: Carrier (code: CAR)

Dissertation Director 1: Patricia A. Shaw
Dissertation Director 2: Douglas Pulleyblank
Dissertation Director 3: William J. Poser

Dissertation Abstract:

This dissertation is a study of the prosodic system of Dakelh
(Carrier), an Athapaskan language of central interior British
Columbia, focusing primarily on the endangered Lheidli dialect spoken
in the area of Prince George, B.C. The study is primarily based on
original fieldwork data, elicited from three native speakers of
Lheidli Dakelh, and partly on comparison with the Nak'azdli dialect as
reported in Story (1989). This work contributes much-needed empirical
data to the long-standing debate over the proper characterization of
Dakelh prosody with respect to notions such as tone vs. pitch accent
vs. stress.

Under the general rubric of prosody, three topics are investigated in
detail. The first is an analysis of syllable and foot structure,
developed within the framework of Optimality Theory, which addresses
such issues as word minimality, epenthesis patterns, syllabification,
and the relationship between syllable structure and stress. For
example, epenthesis and deletion are found to be highly sensitive to
morphological factors and morphologically-defined domains.

Secondly, a phonetic investigation of properties which are usually
correlated with stress, namely increased pitch, duration, and/or
amplitude, is undertaken. One of the findings is that in addition to
word-final stress in verbs, manifested primarily in terms of duration,
"prominence" in the form of increased pitch is typically also found on
one of the earlier syllables in the word. The location of the latter
is partly determined phonologically, and in part lexically; certain
prefixes appear to carry lexical tone, as in many related languages.

The third topic under examination is the phonological behaviour of
tone. Though a lexical tone contrast cannot be established on the
basis of isolation forms alone, evidence of such contrasts comes from
sandhi processes. The Lheidli dialect is shown to differ significantly
from the Nak'azdli dialect in the phonological realization of tone
patterns; for example, the distribution of high tone is partly
sensitive to the phonation type of a preceding consonant. The
word-internal distribution patterns as well as the tone sandhi system
of both dialects are analyzed in Optimality Theory. Tone sandhi is
shown to be derivationally opaque and thus highly problematic for
standard versions of the theory.
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