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Exponence and morphosyntactically triggered phonological processes in the Russian verbal complex1


This paper examines a non-canonical morphophonological vowel alternation in the roots of Russian verbs that is conditioned by aspectual information (derived imperfectivization). This aspectual morpheme is usually expressed as a suffix, but in the forms of interest appears as a vocalic nucleus in the root (whereas there is no vocalic nucleus in the perfective form). In a manner broadly compatible with Distributed Morphology (DM), I argue that this alternation is part of a more general phonological process – yer realization – special only in that it is triggered by morphosyntactic, rather than phonological, information. I propose an analysis of this pattern in which autosegmental representations – in this case, a mora – can be the exponents of morphosyntactic features. This approach obviates the need for DM readjustment rules, which have been criticized on empirical and theoretical grounds (Siddiqi 2006, 2009; Bye & Svenonius 2012; Haugen & Siddiqi 2013). I demonstrate that the required allomorphic interaction between the root and the derived imperfective morpheme is local, despite surface appearances: the intervening vowel is a theme vowel, inserted post-syntactically. This approach makes sense of broader patterns involving this theme vowel, and vindicates theories of allomorphic interaction that impose strict locality conditions (e.g., structural and/or linear adjacency).

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Author’s address: Department of Linguistics, Stanford University, Margaret Jacks Hall, Building 460, Stanford, CA 94305-2150,
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