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LINGUIST List 24.171

Thu Jan 10 2013

Diss: Phonology: Bennett: 'Dissimilation, Consonant Harmony, and Surface Correspondence'

Editor for this issue: Lili Xia <lxialinguistlist.org>

Date: 10-Jan-2013
From: William Bennett <bennettwrutgers.edu>
Subject: Dissimilation, Consonant Harmony, and Surface Correspondence
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Institution: Rutgers–New Brunswick
Program: Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2013

Author: William G. Bennett

Dissertation Title: Dissimilation, Consonant Harmony, and Surface Correspondence

Dissertation URL: http://ling.auf.net/lingbuzz/001710

Linguistic Field(s): Phonology

Dissertation Director:

Dissertation Abstract:

In this dissertation, I argue for a theory of long-distance consonant dissimilation
based on Surface Correspondence, correspondence that holds over the different
consonants contained in the same output form. Surface Correspondence is
posited in previous work on Agreement By Correspondence, which explains
long-distance consonant assimilation as agreement driven by similarity (Rose &
Walker 2004, Hansson 2001/2010). I demonstrate that dissimilation is a natural
outcome of this theory of correspondence, and develop a novel and more
formally explicit characterization of the Surface Correspondence relation and the
constraints sensitive to it. The consequences of this theory are explored in
analyses of dissimilation and agreement patterns in Kinyarwanda, Sundanese,
Cuzco Quechua, Obolo, Chol, Ponapean, Zulu, Yidiny, Latin, and Georgian.

The Surface Correspondence Theory of Dissimilation (SCTD) posits only
constraints that demand surface correspondence, and constraints that limit it.
Dissimilation falls out from the interaction of these constraints. Correspondence
is only required between consonants that are similar in a specified respect; if
they are not similar in the output, they need not correspond. Constraints that
disfavor Surface Correspondence therefore favor dissimilation, because
dissimilating is a way to avoid penalized surface correspondence structures.
This interaction derives long-distance consonant dissimilation without any
special mechanism like the OCP or anti-similarity constraints; it also explains
certain dissimilation patterns that aren’t accounted for by previous OCP-based

The SCTD unites long-distance consonant dissimilation and consonant harmony
under the same theory, but does not predict that they are formally identical.
Agreement is based on correspondence; dissimilation, on the other hand, is
based on non-correspondence – consonants dissimilate instead of
corresponding. Surface Correspondence constraints therefore affect
dissimilation in different ways than harmony: limiting correspondence limits
agreement, but favors dissimilation. The resulting prediction is that harmony and
dissimilation are related in a consistently mismatched way, and not in the
matching way predicted by previous theories that link them together
(MacEachern 1999, Nevins 2004, Mackenzie 2009, Gallagher 2010, a.o.). This
outcome of the SCTD is empirically supported: a survey of over 130 languages
shows that the typology of long-distance consonant dissimilation indeed does not
match the typology of consonant harmony.

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