Published online by Cambridge University Press: 06 September 2012
This paper gives a moraic analysis of gemination and laryngeal alternations associated with consonant gradation in North Saami. Gradation gives rise to a surface three-way length distinction in consonants, which is essential to understanding length in vowels and diphthongs. It is explained by a system of prosodic rules applying to underlying representations containing only a two-way contrast between geminate and singleton consonants, plus a floating mora present in certain suffixes, which results in surface alternations between extra-long and long or between long and short consonants. An enlightening explanation of quantity alternations is available if one exploits the possibility implicit in moraic theory that the relationship between segments and moras can be surface-contrastive, and we show that recourse to trimoraic syllables is unnecessary, despite the surface three-way length difference. These prosodic alternations also result in shifts in the timing of preaspiration and preglottalisation, as well as loss of these laryngeal specifications.