LINGUIST List 15.996

Wed Mar 24 2004

Diss: Ling Theory: McCrary: 'Reassessing...'

Editor for this issue: Takako Matsui <>


  1. kristie_mccrary, Reassessing the Role of the Syllable in Italian...

Message 1: Reassessing the Role of the Syllable in Italian...

Date: Mon, 15 Mar 2004 14:28:10 -0500 (EST)
From: kristie_mccrary <>
Subject: Reassessing the Role of the Syllable in Italian...

Institution: University of California, Los Angeles
Program: Program in Romance Linguistics and Literature
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2004

Author: Kristie Marie McCrary 

Dissertation Title: Reassessing the Role of the Syllable in Italian
Phonology: An Experimental Study of Consonant Cluster Syllabification,
Definite Article Allomorphy and Segment Duration.

Linguistic Field: General Linguistics, Linguistic Theories, Morphology
,Phonetics, Phonology 

Subject Language: Italian (code: ITN)

Dissertation Director 1: Donca Steriade
Dissertation Director 2: Colin Wilson
Dissertation Director 3: Patricia Keating
Dissertation Director 4: Bruce Hayes

Dissertation Abstract: 

One of the main arguments for the inclusion of syllables in
phonological theory is that syllable-based analyses shed light on the
interrelatedness of multiple phenomena. This dissertation investigated
the role of the syllable in Italian phonology in three domains through
a series of experiments with native speakers of Standard Italian: (i)
native speaker intuition of consonant cluster syllabification, (ii)
definite article allomorphy (il vs. lo), and (iii) segment duration.
The primary goal was to test the predictions of syllable-based
analyses. The secondary goal was to test the claimed convergence of
multiple phenomena on the same syllable structure.

The consonant cluster syllabification experiments found that native
speakers do not use knowledge of sonority distance constraints,
sonority sequencing constraints, or the maximum onset principle when
confronted with the task of string division. Instead, two strategies
for string division were identified: (i) the word-based syllables
strategy (Steriade, 1999), and (ii) the phonotactic-constraint
satisfaction strategy. The co-existence of these two strategies was
reflected in increased response variability in cases where the
strategies conflicted.

The syllable-based analysis of masculine singular definite article
allomorphy (il vs. lo) was not supported by the experimental data. A
syllable-independent phonotactic analysis was proposed in which the
same constraints that govern word-internal phonotactics are ranked
above the *lo constraint [il is the default]. It was also found that
article allomorph selection is only marginally predictable before
non-native clusters.

The segment duration experiments found that the maintenance of
contrastive length has far reaching effects on the duration of both
consonants and vowels. Speakers only produced categorical segment
duration differences in the phonotactic context where length is
contrastive. Consonant length is contrastive and differences in
consonant duration were categorical. Vowel length is not contrastive
and differences in vowel duration were gradient. No evidence for
open-syllable vowel lengthening was found.

The cross-experimental comparison found that variability in one domain
(e.g. allomorphy), does not correspond to variability in the others
(e.g. string division, duration). Therefore, the syllable-based
analysis was not able to simultaneously generate predictions in
multiple domains.
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