Exceptions and static phonological patterns: cophonologies vs prespecification

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Exceptions and static phonological patterns:

cophonologies vs. prespecification

Sharon Inkelas, University of California, Berkeley

C. Orhan Orgun, University of California, Berkeley

Cheryl Zoll, University of California, Berkeley and University of Iowa


The topic of this paper*1 is the treatment of static regularities (i.e. lexical exceptions and static distributional patterns), the subject of long-standing controversy in generative linguistic theory. On the one hand, it is possible to handle all static patterns by lexical listing and not hold the grammar accountable for them. On the other hand, it is possible, through the use of cophonologies, i.e. subgrammars (including minor rules or constraint reranking), to capture even the smallest static regularity in grammar. Which of these techniques to apply to which static regularities is typically decided by the individual linguist, leading to overall methodological inconsistency in the literature.

The topic of static regularities is important for several reasons, the first being simply that it would be desirable to have more consensus about the nature of the phonological enterprise, especially in light of the increasing number of articles in the phonological literature drawing theoretical conclusions on the basis of static effects (e.g. McCarthy 1986, 1988; It™ and Mester 1986, 1993, 1995; Lombardi 1990; Yip 1991; McCarthy and Taub 1992; It™, Mester and Padgett 1993, 1996). A second, more concrete reason is that there may be phonological phenomena that occur only in static, nonproductive formÑthat is, as morpheme structure constraints (of the Ònon-duplicatingÓ kind (Kenstowicz and Kisseberth 1977:136)). If so, then the form of phonological theory will vary according to whether or not these regularities are to be accounted for. Third, the recent introduction of Optimality Theory (Prince and Smolensky 1993, McCarthy and Prince 1993a,b) provides a fresh perspective on the old question of Òrules vs. representationsÓ; the explicitness of the theory on certain issues, such as the fixed number of constraints in universal grammar, makes it possible to evaluate certain consequences of the various approaches to static effects in a way that wasnÕt possible in past, derivational theories.

The claim to be defended in this paper is that empirical, theoretical and methodological reasons make it ill-advised to capture partial static distributional patterns directly in the grammar. Partial regularities should be accorded status in the linguistÕs grammar of a language only if there is evidence from observable alternations to support the generalization. Furthermore, subdivision of the lexicon into cophonologies (subgrammars) must be supported independently of the phonological alternation in question, e.g. by some morphological, syntactic, or perhaps even semantic or pragmatic criterion.

Although in one sense the overall methodological conclusions are essentially theory-neutral in character, our investigations have revealed several previously unheralded advantages that Optimality Theory has over derivational, rule-based theories. First, only Optimality Theory is sufficiently explicit on the issue of grammatical complexity to make it possible to discuss the ramifications of cophonology proliferation in a clear way; second, only Optimality Theory offers a principled means of determining the desired, possibly underspecified, underlying representations on which the approach we advocate relies. Past theories of underspecification developed within derivational frameworks run into empirical and conceptual problems in this regard.

Cophonologies: three examples from Turkish

A cophonology (sometimes termed ÒsubgrammarÓ or Òdisjoint phonologyÓ in the literature) is a phonological grammar, i.e. an input-output mapping, which coexists with other phonological grammars in a single language. In rule-based theories, a phonological grammar consists of a set of (potentially ordered) rules. In Optimality theory (Prince and Smolensky 1993), where constraints are claimed to be universal, a phonological grammar is a ranked set of constraints:2
(1) Cophonology: an ordered set of rules, (ranked) set of constraints, etc.
We begin our discussion of the properÑand improperÑuse of cophonologies by setting out three useful examples for study: a productive regularity, a static regularity, and a case of lexical exceptionality. For purposes of comparison, we will assume that each pattern is enforced by the grammar, i.e. that each justifies a cophonology.

The examples are all from Turkish; this is a deliberate decision, since any intelligent discussion of subpatterns in a given language presupposes analysis of some reasonably sized grammar fragment (as It™ and Mester (1993, 1995) and McCarthy and Prince (1993b), for example, have recently provided for Japanese and Axininca Campa, respectively).3

A productive regularity: Sezer stress

The first example is a productive pattern of stress assignment applying to place names and foreign proper names in Turkish (Sezer 1981b; Kaisse 1985, 1993; Hayes 1995; Inkelas 1994b). In this pattern, which we name after its discoverer, Engin Sezer, antepenultimate syllables are stressed if they are heavy and the penultimate syllable is light; otherwise, penultimate syllables are stressed. The weight of the final syllable is completely irrelevant:
(2) a. «l s [‡n.ka.ra] (the place name ÔAnkaraÕ)

b. l «s [a.d‡.na] (the place name ÔAdanaÕ)

c. h «s [is.t‡n.bul] (the place name ‘IstanbulÕ)

d. l «s [e.d«r.ne] (the place name ÔEdirneÕ)
The Sezer pattern differs markedly from the ÒregularÓ stress pattern in Turkish, which is final:4
(3) a. /elma/ [el.m‡] ÔappleÕ

b. /elma-lEr/ [el.ma.l‡r] Ôapple-plural

c. /elma-lEr-DEn/ [el.ma.lar.d‡n] Ôapple-plural-ablativeÕ
The Sezer pattern, though it characterizes a marked subset of roots, is productive. A suffixed word which otherwise exhibits final stress will shift to the Sezer pattern when used as a place name (Sezer 1981b:67):


Suffixed word:

final stress

Zero-derived place name:

Sezer stress









All existing analyses of Turkish stress posit different rules (or constraint rankings) for the final stress and the Sezer patterns. Both constitute productive ÒcophonologiesÓ in Turkish:



Content of grammar

Cophonology A:

place names and foreign

proper names

enforces Sezer stress

Cophonology B:

all other words

enforces Final stress

Cophonology A requires the presence of Sezer stress; Cophonology B requires the presence of Final stress. It is predictable on morphological grounds into which cophonology a stem will fall.5

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