This study presents an extended discussion and analysis of a seemingly
idiosyncratic syncope process governing the verbal prefix string of
Tlingit, a highly endangered and understudied Na-Dene language of Southeast
Alaska and Northern British Columbia.
The author argues for a constraint-based analysis of this alternation,
formulated within the specific framework of Optimality Theory. Under this
analysis, the Tlingit syncope alternation functions to improve the overall
metrical well-formedness of the resulting word.
Moreover, much of the apparently irregular character of the rule is shown
to follow from independently visible phonotactic constraints operating over
distinct sub-portions of the verbal prefix string.
This monograph may thus be considered a contribution to the growing
literature seeking to analyze the notoriously complex prefixal allomorphy
of the Na-Dene languages in a constraint-based, output-oriented framework,
and to understand aspects of this allomorphy in terms of the surface
phonotactics of the prefix string itself. The proposed analysis bears on
various wider debates and issues within phonological theory, such as the
analysis of syllable contact phenomena and anti-gemination, the empirical
justification of prosodic domains, the mapping between prosodic domains and
morphosyntactic structure, whether prosodic domains may overlap, and the
ways in which metrical structure can be detected.