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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Theoretical aspects of Gitksan phonology Brown, Jason Camy


This thesis deals with the phonology of Gitksan, a Tsimshianic language spoken in northern British Columbia, Canada. The claim of this thesis is that Gitksan exhibits several gradient phonological restrictions on consonantal cooccurrence that hold over the lexicon. There is a gradient restriction on homorganic consonants, and within homorganic pairs, there is a gradient restriction on major class and manner features. It is claimed that these restrictions are due to a generalized OCP effect in the grammar, and that this effect can be relativized to subsidiary features, such as place, manner, etc. It is argued that these types of effects are best analyzed with the system of weighted constraints employed in Harmonic Grammar (Legendre et al. 1990, Smolensky & Legendre 2006). It is also claimed that Gitksan exhibits a gradient assimilatory effect among specific consonants. This type of effect is rare, and is unexpected given the general conditions of dissimilation. One such effect is the frequency of both pulmonic pairs of consonants and ejective pairs of consonants, which occur at rates higher than expected by chance. Another is the occurrence of uvular-uvular and velar-velar pairs of consonants, which also occur at rates higher than chance. This pattern is somewhat surprising, as there is a gradient prohibition on cooccurring pairs of dorsal consonants. These assimilatory patterns are analyzed using the Agreement by Correspondence approach (Hansson 2001, Rose & Walker 2004), which mandates that output correspondents agree for some phonological feature. The general discussion of assimilation and dissimilation is continued in morphological contexts, such as reduplication. It is claimed there are differences in the gradient and categorical patterns of assimilation and dissimilation in Coast Tsimshian and Gitksan reduplicative contexts. A summary of the attested reduplicative patterns in the languages, as well as results from a nonce-probe task, supports this claim. This difference between Coast Tsimshian and Gitksan is indicative of a larger difference in the reduplicative patterns of the languages of the Tsimshianic family: each member of the family exhibits slightly different patterns of deglottalization. A typological study of these patterns suggests that glottalized sonorants and obstruents are fundamentally different segment types.

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