Linguistics Colloquium

Accounting for Discontinuous Vowel Harmony in Guébie

Hannah Sande
UC Berkeley
Tue April 26th 2022, 12:00 - 1:30pm
Greenberg Room

Abstract: Harmony is a phonological phenomenon where the features of one speech sound (such as tongue height, rounding, or nasality) spread to and affect the production of the features of nearby sounds. Harmony is argued to be motivated by coarticulation (Ohala, 1994), where the speech gestures used to produce one sound are activated early, or deactivated late, influencing nearby sounds. Thus, harmony is expected to be local. However, linguistic evidence from Guébie (Kru, Côte d'Ivoire), shows that in particular grammatical constructions, harmony can be non-local, surfacing with intervening non-harmonizing words and morphemes. The Guébie facts are presented in detail, with a brief exposition of two additional cases of discontinuous harmony from Wolof (Atlantic, Senegal), and Atchan (Kwa, Côte d'Ivoire). In all three cases, discontinuous harmony arises in contexts where the target of harmony syntactically moves away from the trigger. This talk presents a cyclic analysis where at an intermediate stage in the derivation harmony applies locally between the trigger and target, and only later does syntactic movement of the target apply. This analysis predicts that discontinuous harmony should only be possible when the target of harmony is subject to syntactic movement, and requires a cyclic, interleaved model of the syntax/phonology interface.