LINGUIST List 27.2718

Fri Jun 24 2016

Confs: Syntax, Phonology/Netherlands

Editor for this issue: Ashley Parker <>

Date: 23-Jun-2016
From: Lisa Cheng <>
Subject: Syntax-Phonology Interface
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Syntax-Phonology Interface

Date: 14-Mar-2017 - 14-Mar-2017
Location: Leiden, Netherlands
Contact: Laura Downing
Contact Email: < click here to access email >

Linguistic Field(s): Phonology; Syntax

Meeting Description:

Basic questions for theories of the interface:
1- What aspects of syntactic structure condition phonological processes?
2- How to formalize the interaction?

The simplest answer to question 2 is: there is no need for a formalism. Phonology directly encodes certain information in the syntactic structure. Theories based on this claim are called direct reference theories of the interface. Most direct reference theories have been concerned with demonstrating that phonological interaction between words is more likely if they are in a local syntactic relationship. In current theories, this means that they should be in the same spell out domain. In earlier theories, c-command could define other types of local syntactic relationships.

Indirect reference theories, in contrast, propose that the interface is not directly conditioned by syntactic structure, but rather is mediated through constituents in the Prosodic Hierarchy (Nespor & Vogel 1986; Selkirk 1986), which themselves are (partially) defined with reference to syntactic structure:
Intonation Phrase = clause (CP or phase)
Phonological Phrase = XP
Clitic Group/Compound Word Group (see recent work by Vogel and Vigario)
Phonological Word = X0

Indirect reference theories more easily allow for the possibility that non-syntactic factors can also condition phrasal phonology. This is the major difference between them. Non-syntactic factors include:
- Focus
- Nonfinality
- Minimality or branching: nominal modifiers induce phrase breaks

Another type of problem for direct reference theories is that cross-linguistic variation in phrasal parse is relevant for phonological processes. This variation is unexpected if the relevant syntactic structures are the same. However, indirect reference theories face their own problems:
- Can they express all relevant notions of syntactic locality?
- Are there sufficient levels in the Prosodic Hierarchy to account for the range of phrasal processes found within and among languages?

Both approaches must limit the kind of morpho-syntactic information that phonology can refer to in order to allow cross-linguistic predictions to be made about possible interactions.

Page Updated: 24-Jun-2016