Autosegmental Phonology

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AUTOSEGMENTAL PHONOLOGY
A Prosodic Theory of Nonconcatenative Morphology
This approach to generative phonology was
proposed by John Gold Smith in 1976. This theory
was based on earlier ideas from several linguists:
• Bernard Bloch (1948)
• J. R. Firth (1948)
• Charles Hocket (1955)
The autosegmental framework was originally used to
describe tone in tone languages. G.N. Clements
(1976) developed the theory involving vowel
harmony and nasal harmony. Then John McCarthy
(1979) built upon this theory extensively in the
verbal derivation of Classical Arabic
Description of the framework:
 Each autosegmental tier contains a linearly
ordered sequence of autosegments
 Different features may be placed on separate tiers
Various tiers are organized by association lines
root tier
n
(consonantal)
q l move
Skeletal tier C V C V C
Melody tier
(vocalic)
a
a
[naqal] he moved
[a] short vowel
 Autosegmental phonology deals with the
consequences for generative phonology of multilinear phonological analysis and representation
The underlying and surface forms consist of parallel
strings of segments arranged in two or more tiers
Features are distributed over the various tiers
No feature may appear on more than one tier
Some constraints:
 Association lines never cross
 Vowels link to vowels and consonants to
consonants
 A skeletal node can’t be linked to two different
segments on different tiers
Similarities with the generative phonology:
 Autosegmental phonology shares the assumption
that we have an internal grammar and that
phonology is an attempt to represent these
abstract mental constructs.
 Represents phonological processes in a formally
simple way
Differences:
 Autosegmental phonology investigates the
consequences of having more complex
structures and articulation than a linear
string of segments can address
 Autosegmenal phonology goes beyond the
place and manner of articulation and focuses
on stress, tone, and vowel and nasal
harmony
 The analysis of phonological phenomena uses less
features and changing rules. Instead, delete or
reorganize the various autosegments through
association lines
• John McCarthy proposed an important development
by showing that the derivation of words from
consonantal roots in Arabic could be analyzed
autosegmentally.
• In Arabic, words may be formed by modifying the
root itself internally and not simply by connecting
of affixes, root compounding, or conversion
How this theory works in real life:
Learning to identify the root of the Arabic word is
important. It will often help you guess the meaning
of words, thus increasing your vocabulary and
comprehension
Possible semantic variation of the same root:
One root of word and many other derivations by
adding vowels, suffixes, and prefixes to the root
ktb= write
adding suffixes(with vowels)
kitabun
a book
kita:batun act of writing
kutta:bun Quraan school
Autosegmental representation for the root ktb
root tier
k
t
b
(consonantal)
skeletal tier
c v c v c
Melody tier
a a
(vocalic)
katab=he wrote
a=short vowel
Arabic Patterns and roots
Arabic Framework:
Autosegmental representation in which features
bundle for vowels and consonants were connected
to C and V nodes on different tiers
 Root Tier:
it’s consonantal segments, the meaning of lexeme
(ktb= write;nql= move; fʕl= do)
 Skeletal Tier:
a prosodic template associated with a particular
meaning or grammatical function.
For example:
katab = CVCVC=CaCaC is an active pattern that
means he wrote
kutiba=CVCVC=CuCiC is an active pattern that
means it was written
 Melody Tier:
it involves grammatical information: tense, voice,
aspect, number, derivational functions
Arabic Verbs System:
Arabic verbs are structured around a root consisting
of consonants only.
The trilateral root is based on 15 derivational
categories called banyan
The vowel patterns bear a consistent meaning such
as CaCaC (this pattern is always for the perfective
active)
CuCiC (this pattern is always for the perfective
passive)
Derivation Ⅰ:
Template= CVCVC= Perfective active and passive
Perfective active = CVCVC=CaCaC
Perfective passive= CVCVC=CuCiC
root tier
n
(consonantal)
q l meaning of lexeme
move
Skeletal tier C V C V C
Melody tier
(vocalic)
a
a
gramtical function
active pattern
cacac
gramtical information
past tense
moved
root tier
(consonantal)
q l move
Skeletal tier C V C V C
passive pattern
CuCiC
Melody tier u
(vocalic)
passive voice
it was moved
i
root tier
f
(consonantal)
ʕ l do
Skeletal tier C V C V C
active pattern
CaCaC
Melody tier
(Vocalic)
past tense did
a
a
root tier
(consonantal)
f
Skeletal tier
C V C V C
Melody tier
(Vocalic)
ʕ
u
l i
do
passive pattern
CuCiC
passive voice it was done
What about affixes? How can we recognize them?
How can we know they’re a part of the root or not?
Morpheme tier:
McCarthy added an additional morpheme tier= μ
node. Lexical representation of each morpheme in a
word takes a separate tier
The suffixes and prefixes take also μ nodes. In this
way the root tier will provide all the information
need to distinguish consonants from one another by
point and manner of articulation like the following:
μ
Morpheme tier
root tier
k
t
b
skeletal tier
c v c v c
katab=he wrote
Melody tier
a a
a=short vowel
Morpheme tier
μ
nuqil=it was moved
μ
Morpheme tier
Vocalic melody tier
u
Skeletal tier
C
Root tier
n
Morpheme tier
V
i
C
q
μ
V
C
l naqlun=transit
Morpheme tier
(Nominative)
μ
Vocalic melody tier
a
Skeletal tier
C
Root tier
n
Morpheme tier
V
μ
C
C q
l
μ
u
n
V
C
a linear analysis for the Arabic examples:
A linear analysis is cumbersome and inelegant!
binit=girl
Root tier
b
(Consonantal)
n t
Skeletal tier
C V C V C
Melody tier
(Vocalic)
i
i
binti:= my girl
i:= long vowel (my)
Morpheme tier
μ
Melody tier
(Vocalic)
i
μ
i
Skeletal tier
C V C C C V
Root tier
b
Morphmeme tier
n t μ
ridʒil=leg
Root tier
(Consonantal)
r
dʒ l
Skeletal tier
C V C V C
Melody tier
(Vocalic)
i
i
ridʒli:= my leg
i:= long vowel (my)
Morpheme tier
μ
Melody tier
(Vocalic)
i
μ
i
Skeletal tier
C V C V C
C C V
Root tier
r
Morphmeme tier
dʒ l μ
Conclusion:
•Framework advantages include tone, vowel
harmony, gemination, and compensatory lengthening
•Based on the data we analyzed, this framework at
this time is not sufficient to supplant other
phonological theories, but provides a complementary
analytical method to deal with specific phonological
phenomena
Obligatory Contour Principle:
Complication for this theory
The geminate roots in Arabic don’t provide a
satisfactory explanation for an empty slot
Arabic allows roots of two, three and four consonants
to be subject to the Obligatory Contour Principle
This OCP states that identical H and L tones can’t be
adjacent to each other
In 1986, McCarthy extended the OCP to all
autosegmental melodies including consonantal
and vocalic segments
For biconsonantal root:
CV template must be filled by adding a geminate
consonant for the root. For example, ʃd is called a
geminate root , so it will be ʃdd
For quadrilateral root, one to one association is
possible. The causative past tense template is
CVCCVCV. The word ɣlɣl means penetrate
ʃ
C
V
a d
d
C
C ɣ
C
V
a l
ɣ
C
C
l
V
C
V

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