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Moraic onsets in Arrernte*

  • Nina Topintzi (a1) and Andrew Nevins (a2)

The Australian language Arrernte has been argued by Breen & Pensalfini (1999) and Evans & Levinson (2009) to present a case of VC syllabification with coda maximisation, rather than CV syllabification with onset maximisation. In this paper we demonstrate that greater insights into a number of phenomena are achieved when they are analysed with CV syllabification and onset consonants that are moraic, a possibility independently proposed for a wide range of languages by Topintzi (2010). We review a range of evidence from phonetic studies, acquisition and musicology that points towards CV syllabification in Arrernte, and analyse allomorphy, stress assignment, reduplication and the transpositional language game ‘Rabbit Talk’ in terms of reference to moraic structure. The results lend themselves to new directions in the analysis of Arrernte, and provide further evidence for moraic onsets in prosodic morphology.

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For very helpful suggestions and discussion, we thank Myf Turpin, David Wilkins, Rob Pensalfini, Marija Tabain, Toni Borowsky, Michael Becker, Leo Wetzels, Moira Yip and Bob Ladd, as well as the editors, associate editor and anonymous reviewers of Phonology.

The appendices mentioned in the paper are available as online supplementary materials at

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Supplementary materials

Topintzi and Nevins supplementary material
Appendices A-C

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