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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Syntax, prosody, and metrical structure in Blackfoot Weber, Natalie


This dissertation investigates the correspondences between syntactic, prosodic, and metrical constituents in Blackfoot (Algonquian), a polysynthetic language. I propose that the syntax-prosody correspondence is distinct from the alignment of prosodic and metrical structure. In a parallel constraint-based model of phonology, this predicts that a language might satisfy isomorphic syntax-prosody correspondence at the expense of prosodic and metrical alignment, or vice versa. To determine the generalizations in Blackfoot, I gathered data by conducting fieldwork with speakers and consulting published reference materials. Some arguments in the dissertation are based on original morphological and phonological analyses of Blackfoot stems. For the syntax-prosody correspondence, I hypothesize that each syntactic phase corresponds to a particular prosodic constituent by default. Specifically, the vP phase (the predicate of events), matches to a Prosodic Word (PWd) constituent, and the DP and CP phases match to Phonological Phrase (PPh) constituents. I model these relationships using a modified version of Match Theory (Selkirk 2011), where mismatches between syntactic phases and prosodic structure only occur in order to satisfy prosodic wellformedness constraints. For the relation between prosody and metrical structure, I hypothesize that the edges of metrical constituents align to different prosodic constituents (prosodic word, phonological phrase, or intonational phrase). Regarding structure in Blackfoot, I argue that a constraint which requires sister nodes within the prosodic structure to be of the same type outranks the syntax-prosody MATCH constraints. This forces each DP argument and also the remainder of the CP (e.g. the verbal complex) to be matched to a PPh constituent. The vP phase and every higher vP projection corresponds to a PWd constituent, which is distinct from the PPh. I argue that the metrical constituents in Blackfoot align to PPh edges, and that syllables frequently span PWd edges. This is a predicted outcome, given that the MATCH and ALIGN constraints are violable. The model I propose accounts for the correspondence relations in Blackfoot, and leads to a typology of predicted language types, with implications for extending Match Theory to account for polysynthetic languages.

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