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Neutral Vowels in Optimality Theory: A Comparison of Yoruba and Wolof

  • Douglas Pulleyblank (a1)

Patterns of vowel harmony are frequently interrupted by the presence of neutral segments, segments that are obligatorily realised with only one of the harmonic values. Peripherally, neutral segments appear in two patterns, referred to as relative and absolute alignment. Medially, such neutral segments may be opaque, interrupting the transmission of harmony, or they may be transparent, skipped over by harmony. It is argued that the properties of neutrality result from the interaction of three independently motivated families of constraints: faithfulness, alignment, and grounding. No process-specific constraints distinguishing between the types of alignment or between opacity and transparency are required under the proposed account.


Les patrons d’harmonie vocalique sont fréquemment interrompus par la présence de segments neutres, segments qui sont obligatoirement réalisés avec une seule des valeurs harmoniques. En position périphérique, les segments neutres se présentent sous deux patrons : l’alignementrelatif ou absolu. En position médiale, de tels segments neutres peuvent être opaques, interrompant la transmission de l’harmonie, ou transparents, ne bloquant pas l’harmonie. Dans cet article, il est argumenté que les propriétés de neutralité découlent de l’interaction de trois familles de contraintes indépendamment justifiées: la fidélité (« faithfulness »), l’alignement («alignment»), et l’ancrage phonétique («grounding»). Cette analyse permet d’éviter de recourir à des contraintes spécifiques sur les processus pour distinguer entre les types d’alignement ou entre l’opacité et la transparence.

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Canadian Journal of Linguistics/Revue canadienne de linguistique
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  • EISSN: 1710-1115
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