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The word-level prosody of Samoan*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 September 2014

Kie Zuraw*
University of California, Los Angeles
Kristine M. Yu*
University of MassachusettsAmherst
Robyn Orfitelli*
University of Sheffield


This paper documents and analyses stress and vowel length in Samoan words. The domain of footing, the Prosodic Word, appears to be a root and cohering suffixes; prefixes and most disyllabic suffixes form a separate domain. Vowel sequences that disrupt the normal stress pattern require constraints matching sonority prominence to metrical prominence, sensitive to degree of mismatch and to the number of vowels involved. Two suffixes unexpectedly have an idiosyncratic footing constraint, observable only in a limited set of words. We also discuss trochaic shortening and its asymmetrical productivity, and the marginal contrastiveness of some features in loans. While Samoan does not appear to be typologically unusual, it does offer arguments (i) in favour of alignment constraints on Prosodic Words rather than only on feet directly, and (ii) against simple cyclicity. Some of the strongest evidence comes from stress patterns of the rich inventory of phonotactically licit vowel sequences.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

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*We thank our primary consultant, John Fruean, and Kare'l Lokeni for their many hours of work on this project. We also thank the other members of the UCLA 2007–08 field methods class (Martine Bruil, Jennifer Fischer, Ben George, Vincent Homer, Ben Jones, Jieun Kim, Hilda Koopman and Constanze Weise), Eric Baković, Bruce Hayes, Maria Polinsky, Kevin Ryan and three anonymous reviewers and an associate editor for their input. For helping coordinate fieldwork in Apia, Samoa, we thank John Fruean, Gladys Fuimaono, Peone Fuimaono and staff members at Hotel Elisa. For creating a database of the words in Milner (1993) we thank Sarah Conlon, Kris Ebarb, Aellon Krider, Karyn Maczka, Katarina Mentzelopoulos, Claire Moore-Cantwell, Ingrid Norrmann-Vigil and Violeta Osegueda. We are grateful for funding from the UCLA Academic Senate's Committee on Research for fieldwork at UCLA, and funding from the Departments of Linguistics at University of Maryland College Park and University of Massachusetts for fieldwork in Samoa.


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