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A metrical analysis of Blackfoot nominal accent in optimality theory Kaneko, Ikuyo

Abstract

Blackfoot (Siksika), an Algonquian language spoken in Southern Alberta and in Northwestern Montana, is claimed to have a pitch-accent system (Frantz 1991). However, no complete analysis of the Blackfoot word accent system is available in the literature. This thesis examines Blackfoot nominal accent by means of metrical analysis (Halle and Vergnaud 1987) in Optimality Theory (OT) (Prince and Smolensky 1993). All of the data in this thesis are elicited from native speakers of Blackfoot. Regardless of noun type, every word contains one and only one pitch peak. Bare nouns (mono-morphemic nouns) and relational nouns (dependent nouns) show that Blackfoot has a mixed predictable and lexical accent system. Accent is quantity-sensitive, i.e. a heavy syllable attracts accent, while in nouns which contain no heavy syllable or more than one heavy syllable, it is lexically specified. An interesting contrast is found in long vowels - they contrast a high-level pitch, a falling pitch, and a rising pitch. Derived nouns (compounds) demonstrate four kinds of accent patterns, depending on the status (free vs. bound) and the accentual property (accented vs. unaccented) of morphemes. The leftmost accent of the compound members is retained, but the accent shifts to the juncture of them if it is word-final. If compound members are unaccented, the accent is assigned to word-final position by default. Speaker variation also occurs. One speaker systematically changes vowel length depending on the type of accented syllable, while the other speaker shows a wide variety of accent patterns. This thesis concludes that all the accent patterns can be accounted for by a single ranking of constraints in an OT analysis, in spite of the fact that the accent system is both lexical and predictable. Addition of constraints is needed specifically for compounds! Speaker variation is accounted for by reranking the same set of constraints. Priority is given to constraints that refer to the predictable accent in the grammar of one speaker. The lexical information is more respected in the other speaker's grammar. In addition to the analysis of general pitch-accent patterns, four types of irregular patterns are examined. The conclusions reached in this thesis demonstrate that the accent system interacts with other phonological properties of Blackfoot.

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