Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-59b7f5684b-frvt8 Total loading time: 0.447 Render date: 2022-10-04T00:11:38.256Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "displayNetworkTab": true, "displayNetworkMapGraph": false, "useSa": true } hasContentIssue true

Unbounded circumambient patterns in segmental phonology

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 August 2020

Adam G. McCollum*
Rutgers University
Eric Baković*
University of California San Diego
Anna Mai*
University of California San Diego
Eric Meinhardt*
University of California San Diego


We present an empirical challenge to Jardine's (2016) assertion that only tonal spreading patterns can be unbounded circumambient, meaning that the determination of a phonological value may depend on information that is an unbounded distance away on both sides. We focus on a demonstration that the ATR harmony pattern found in Tutrugbu is unbounded circumambient, and we also cite several other segmental spreading processes with the same general character. We discuss implications for the complexity of phonology and for the relationship between the explanation of typology and the evaluation of phonological theories.

Copyright © The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


We would like to thank Judith Glover for her willingness to share her language, and James Essegbey for all his help. We are also grateful to the reviewers at Phonology, and to Sharon Rose, Jeff Heinz, Andrew Lamont, Charlie O'Hara and Caitlin Smith, as well as members of audiences at NELS 48, SCAMP 3 and the University of Chicago. Any errors are our own.


Anderson, Stephen R. (1974). The organization of phonology. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar
Archangeli, Diana & Pulleyblank, Douglas (2007). Harmony. In de Lacy (2007). 353–378.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Avcu, Enes (2018). Experimental investigation of the subregular hypothesis. WCCFL 35. 7786.Google Scholar
Baković, Eric (2000). Harmony, dominance and control. PhD dissertation, Rutgers University.Google Scholar
Bickel, Balthasar (2007). Typology in the 21st century: major current developments. Linguistic Typology 11. 239251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bickel, Balthasar (2011). Statistical modeling of language universals. Linguistic Typology 15. 401413.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bickmore, Lee S. & Kula, Nancy C. (2013). Ternary spreading and the OCP in Copperbelt Bemba. Studies in African Linguistics 42. 101132.Google Scholar
Blevins, Juliette (2004). Evolutionary Phonology: the emergence of sound patterns. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bobuafor, Mercy (2013). A grammar of Tafi. PhD thesis, University of Leiden.Google Scholar
Bowern, Claire (2011). Out of Africa? The logic of phoneme inventories and founder effects. Linguistic Typology 15. 207216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bowler, Margit (2013). Majority rules effects in Warlpiri vowel harmony. Ms. Scholar
Bowler, Margit & Zymet, Jesse (2019). A count effect in Warlpiri vowel harmony. Poster presented at the 27th Manchester Phonology Meeting. Available (April 2020) at Scholar
Casali, Roderic F. (2003). [ATR] value asymmetries and underlying vowel inventory structure in Niger-Congo and Nilo-Saharan. Linguistic Typology 7. 307382.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Casali, Roderic F. (2008). ATR harmony in African languages. Language and Linguistics Compass 2. 496549.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Casali, Roderic F. (2012). [+ATR] dominance in Akan. Journal of West African Languages 39:1. 3359.Google Scholar
Chandlee, Jane (2014). Strictly local phonological processes. PhD dissertation, University of Delaware.Google Scholar
Chandlee, Jane, Athanasopoulou, Angeliki & Heinz, Jeffrey (2012). Evidence for classifying metathesis patterns as subsequential. WCCFL 29. 303309.Google Scholar
Chandlee, Jane, Eyraud, Rémi & Heinz, Jeffrey (2014). Learning Strictly Local subsequential functions. Transactions of the Association for Computational Linguistics 2. 491503.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chandlee, Jane & Heinz, Jeffrey (2012). Bounded copying is subsequential: implications for metathesis and reduplication. In Proceedings of the 12th Meeting of the ACL Special Interest Group on Computational Morphology and Phonology. Stroudsburg, PA: Association for Computational Linguistics. 4251.Google Scholar
Chandlee, Jane & Heinz, Jeffrey (2018). Strict locality and phonological maps. LI 49. 2360.Google Scholar
Chandlee, Jane, Heinz, Jeffrey & Jardine, Adam (2018). Input Strictly Local opaque maps. Phonology 35. 171205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Chomsky, Noam & Halle, Morris (1968). The sound pattern of English. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
Comrie, Bernard, Haspelmath, Martin & Bickel, Balthasar (2015). The Leipzig glossing rules. Scholar
Croft, William, Bhattacharya, Tanmoy, Kleinschmidt, Dave, Eric Smith, D. & Florian Jaeger, T. (2011). Greenbergian universals, diachrony, and statistical analyses. Linguistic Typology 15. 433453.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Culbertson, Jennifer (2012). Typological universals as reflections of biased learning: evidence from artificial language learning. Linguistics and Language Compass 6. 310329.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cysouw, Michael (2011). Understanding transition probabilities. Linguistic Typology 15. 415431.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Daniel, Michael (2007). Representative sampling and typological explanation: a phenomenological lament. Linguistic Typology 11. 6978.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
de Lacy, Paul (ed.) (2007). The Cambridge handbook of phonology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dimmendaal, Gerrit J. (1983). The Turkana language. Dordrecht: Foris.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Elgot, C. C. & Mezei, J. E. (1965). On relations defined by generalized finite automata. IBM Journal of Research and Development 9. 4768.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Essegbey, James (2009). Noun classes in Tutrugbu. Journal of West African Languages 36. 3756.Google Scholar
Essegbey, James (2019). Tutrugbu (Nyangbo) language and culture. Leiden & Boston: Brill.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Finley, Sara (2008). Formal and cognitive restrictions on vowel harmony. PhD dissertation, Johns Hopkins University.Google Scholar
Gainor, Brian, Lai, Regine & Heinz, Jeffrey (2012). Computational characterizations of vowel harmony patterns and pathologies. WCCFL 29. 6371.Google Scholar
Hansson, Gunnar Ólafur (2008). Diachronic explanations of sound patterns. Language and Linguistics Compass 2. 859893.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hantgan, Abbie & Davis, Stuart (2012). Bondu-so vowel harmony: a descriptive analysis with theoretical implications. Studies in African Linguistics 41. 187212.Google Scholar
Harris, Alice C. (2008). On the explanation of typologically unusual structures. In Good, Jeff (ed.) Linguistic universals and language change. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 5476.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hayes, Bruce & Wilson, Colin (2008). A maximum entropy model of phonotactics and phonotactic learning. LI 39. 379440.Google Scholar
Heinz, Jeffrey (2011a). Computational phonology. Part I: Foundations. Language and Linguistics Compass 5. 140152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Heinz, Jeffrey (2011b). Computational phonology. Part II: Grammars, learning, and the future. Language and Linguistics Compass 5. 153168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Heinz, Jeffrey (2018). The computational nature of phonological generalizations. In Hyman, Larry M. & Plank, Frans (eds.) Phonological typology. Berlin & Boston: De Gruyter Mouton. 126195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Heinz, Jeffrey & Idsardi, William J. (2011). Sentence and word complexity. Science 333. 295297.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Heinz, Jeffrey & Idsardi, William J. (2013). What complexity differences reveal about domains in language. Topics in Cognitive Science 5. 111131.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Heinz, Jeffrey, Kobele, Gregory M. & Riggle, Jason (2009). Evaluating the complexity of Optimality Theory. LI 40. 277288.Google Scholar
Heinz, Jeffrey & Lai, Regine (2013). Vowel harmony and subsequentiality. In Kornai, András & Kuhlmann, Marco (eds.) Proceedings of the 13th Meeting on the Mathematics of Language. Sofia: Association for Computational Linguistics. 5263.Google Scholar
Hulden, Mans (2017). Formal and computational verification of phonological analyses. Phonology 34. 407435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Harry van der, Hulst & van de Weijer, Jeroen (1995). Vowel harmony. In Goldsmith, John A. (ed.) The handbook of phonological theory. Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell. 495534.Google Scholar
Hyman, Larry M. (1998). Positional prominence and the ‘prosodic trough’ in Yaka. Phonology 15. 4175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Jardine, Adam (2016). Computationally, tone is different. Phonology 33. 247283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Johnson, C. Douglas (1972). Formal aspects of phonological description. The Hague & Paris: Mouton.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kalinowski, Cristin (2009). Multidirectional vowel harmony in Esimbi. BLS 35. 147155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kaplan, Ronald M. & Kay, Martin (1994). Regular models of phonological rule systems. Computational Linguistics 20. 331378.Google Scholar
Kari, Ethelbert E. (1997). Degema. Munich: Lincom Europa.Google Scholar
Kimper, Wendell (2012). Harmony is myopic: reply to Walker 2010. LI 43. 301309.Google Scholar
Kula, Nancy C. & Bickmore, Lee S. (2015). Phrasal phonology in Copperbelt Bemba. Phonology 32. 147176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lamont, Andrew (2019). Majority Rule in Harmonic Serialism. In Hout, Katherine, Mai, Anna, McCollum, Adam, Rose, Sharon & Zaslansky, Matt (eds.) Supplemental proceedings of the 2018 Annual Meeting on Phonology. Scholar
Lesley-Neuman, Diane (2012). Morpho-phonological levels and grammaticalization in Karimojong: a review of the evidence. Studies in African Linguistics 41. 99169.Google Scholar
Lionnet, Florian (2016). Subphonemic teamwork: a typology and theory of cumulative coarticulatory effects in phonology. PhD thesis, University of California, Berkeley.Google Scholar
Lombardi, Linda (1999). Positional faithfulness and voicing assimilation in Optimality Theory. NLLT 17. 267302.Google Scholar
Luo, Huan (2017). Long-distance consonant agreement and subsequentiality. Glossa 2(1):52. Scholar
McCollum, Adam G., Baković, Eric, Mai, Anna & Meinhardt, Eric (2020). On the existence of non-myopic harmony. Ms, Rutgers University & University of California San Diego.Google Scholar
McCollum, Adam G. & Essegbey, James (2018). Unbounded harmony is not always myopic: evidence from Tutrugbu. WCCFL 35. 251258.Google Scholar
McCollum, Adam G. & Essegbey, James (2020). Initial prominence and progressive vowel harmony in Tutrugbu. Phonological Data and Analysis 2:3. 137. Scholar
Marslen-Wilson, William (1973). Linguistic structure and speech shadowing at very short latencies. Nature 244. 522523.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Marslen-Wilson, William & Tyler, Lorraine Komisarjevsky (1987). Against modularity. In Garfield, Jay L. (ed.) Modularity in knowledge representation and natural-language understanding. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. 3762.Google Scholar
Mascaró, Joan (2019). On the lack of evidence for nonmyopic harmony. LI 50. 862872.Google Scholar
Maslova, Elena (2000). A dynamic approach to the verification of distributional universals. Linguistic Typology 4. 307333.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mielke, Jeff (2007). PBase: a database of phonological patterns. Available (April 2020) at Scholar
Mohri, Mehryar (1997). Finite-state transducers in language and speech processing. Computational Linguistics 23. 269311.Google Scholar
Moreton, Elliott & Pater, Joe (2012). Structure and substance in artificial-phonology learning. Part 1: Structure. Language and Linguistics Compass 6. 686701.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nevins, Andrew (2010). Locality in vowel harmony. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nichols, Johanna (1992). Linguistic diversity in space and time. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Noske, Manuela (1996). [ATR] harmony in Turkana. Studies in African Linguistics 25. 6199.Google Scholar
Noske, Manuela (2000). [ATR] harmony in Turkana: a case of Faith Suffix ≫ Faith Root. NLLT 18. 771812.Google Scholar
Novelli, Bruno (1985). A grammar of the Karimojong language. Berlin: Reimer.Google Scholar
O'Hara, Charlie & Smith, Caitlin (2019). Computational complexity and sour-grapes-like patterns. In Hout, Katherine, Mai, Anna, McCollum, Adam, Rose, Sharon & Zaslansky, Matt (eds.) Supplemental proceedings of the 2018 Annual Meeting on Phonology. Scholar
Padgett, Jaye (1995). Partial class behavior and nasal place assimilation. In Suzuki, Keiichiro & Elzinga, Dirk (eds.) Proceedings of the 1995 Southwestern Workshop on Optimality Theory (SWOT). Tucson: Department of Linguistics, University of Arizona. 145183.Google Scholar
Pater, Joe (2018). Substance matters: a reply to Jardine (2016). Phonology 35. 151156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Payne, Amanda (2017). All dissimilation is computationally subsequential. Lg 93. e353e371. Scholar
Perfors, Amy, Tenenbaum, Joshua B. & Regier, Terry (2011). The learnability of abstract syntactic principles. Cognition 118. 306338.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Piantadosi, Steven T. & Gibson, Edward (2014). Quantitative standards for absolute linguistic universals. Cognitive Science 38. 736756.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Piantadosi, Steven T., Tenenbaum, Joshua B. & Goodman, Noah D. (2016). The logical primitives of thought: empirical foundations for compositional cognitive models. Psychological Review 123. 392424.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Plank, Frans (2007). Extent and limits of linguistic diversity as the remit of typology – but through constraints on what is diversity limited? Linguistic Typology 11. 4368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Prince, Alan (2007). The pursuit of theory. In de Lacy (2007). 33–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rasin, Ezer, Berger, Iddo, Lan, Nur & Katzir, Roni (ms). Learning rule-based morpho-phonology. Available (April 2020) at Scholar
Riggle, Jason (2004). Generation, recognition, and learning in finite-state Optimality Theory. PhD dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles.Google Scholar
Roche, Emmanuel & Schabes, Yves (1997). Finite-state language processing. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rogers, James & Pullum, Geoffrey K. (2011). Aural pattern recognition experiments and the subregular hierarchy. Journal of Logic, Language and Information 20. 329342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Rose, Sharon (2018). ATR vowel harmony: new patterns and diagnostics. In Gallagher, Gillian, Gouskova, Maria & Yin, Sora Heng (eds.) Proceedings of the 2017 Annual Meeting on Phonology. Scholar
Rottland, Franz & Otaala, Laura A., (1983). Mid-vowel assimilation in Teso-Turkana. In Voßen, Rainer & Bechhaus-Gerst, Marianne (eds.) Nilotic studies: proceedings of the international symposium on languages and history of the Nilotic peoples, Cologne, January 4–6, 1982. Berlin: Reimer. 169181.Google Scholar
Ryan, Kevin M. (2017). Attenuated spreading in Sanskrit retroflex harmony. LI 48. 299340.Google Scholar
Schröder, Helga & Schröder, Martin (1987). Vowel harmony in Toposa. Afrikanistische Arbeitspapiere 12. 2735.Google Scholar
Smith, Caitlin & O'Hara, Charlie (2019). Formal characterizations of true and false sour grapes. In Jarosz, Gaja, Nelson, Max, O'Connor, Brendan & Pater, Joe (eds.) Proceedings of the Society for Computation in Linguistic (SCiL) 2019. Vol. 2. 338341. Scholar
Stanton, Juliet (2016). Learnability shapes typology: the case of the midpoint pathology. Lg 92. 753791.Google Scholar
Stanton, Juliet (2020). Gurindji nasal cluster dissimilation as trigger deletion. JL 56. 157195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tanenhaus, Michael K., Spivey-Knowlton, Michael J., Eberhard, Kathleen M. & Sedivy, Julie C. (1995). Integration of visual and linguistic information in spoken language comprehension. Science 268. 16321634.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Tenenbaum, Joshua B. & Griffiths, Thomas L. (2001). Generalization, similarity, and Bayesian inference. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 24. 629640.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Tesar, Bruce (1995). Computational Optimality Theory. PhD dissertation, University of Colorado, Boulder.Google Scholar
Tily, Harry & Florian Jaeger, T. (2011). Complementing quantitative typology with behavioral approaches: evidence for typological universals. Linguistic Typology 15. 497508.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Vaux, Bert (2008). Why the phonological component must be serial and rule-based. In Vaux, Bert & Nevins, Andrew (eds.) Rules, constraints, and phonological phenomena. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2060.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Walker, Rachel (2010). Nonmyopic harmony and the nature of derivations. LI 41. 169179.Google Scholar
Wilson, Colin (2003). Analyzing unbounded spreading with constraints: marks, targets, and derivations. Ms, University of California, Los Angeles.Google Scholar
Wilson, Colin (2006). Unbounded spreading is myopic. Paper presented at the Phonology Fest Workshop on Current Perspectives on Phonology, Indiana University.Google Scholar
Wit, Gerrit de (2015). Liko phonology and grammar: a Bantu language of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. PhD dissertation, University of Leiden.Google Scholar
Yip, Moira (2002). Tone. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Supplementary material: PDF

McCollum et al. supplementary material

McCollum et al. supplementary material

Download McCollum et al. supplementary material(PDF)
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Unbounded circumambient patterns in segmental phonology
Available formats

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Unbounded circumambient patterns in segmental phonology
Available formats

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Unbounded circumambient patterns in segmental phonology
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *