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Moro voicelessness dissimilation and binary [voice] *

  • Wm. G. Bennett (a1) and Sharon Rose (a2)

This paper reports on a pattern of voicelessness dissimilation in the Kordofanian language Moro. Voiceless stops and affricates become voiced before a voiceless obstruent in a transvocalic configuration. The dissimilation is robust, and productive across morphological contexts. Phonetically, voicing in Moro is realised as a difference between prevoicing and short-lag voice onset time. This makes [voice] the most realistic featural characterisation; using another feature like [spread glottis] in lieu of [–voice] doesn't explain the contrast. Consequently, dissimilation of voicelessness in Moro is strong evidence that [voice] is a binary feature, and that […voice] may be phonologically active despite being ‘unmarked’. We show that when [–voice] is admitted, the Moro pattern is straightforwardly analysed on a par with other cases of dissimilation. Our analysis uses the theory of surface correspondence, which carries no crucial assumptions about markedness; other theories of dissimilation are considered in an online supplement.

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For helpful feedback and discussion, we thank the audience at OCP in Leiden/Amsterdam, Marc Garellek and the Phonology anonymous reviewers, associate editor and editors. This work was supported by the American Philosophical Society, the Rhodes University Research Committee and NSF grant BCS-0745973 ‘Moro Language Project’ (Rose). We also gratefully acknowledge the Moro speakers, Ikhlas Elahmer, Elyasir Julima and Angelo Naser. Authors’ names are in alphabetical order.

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Supplementary materials

Bennett and Rose supplementary material
Appendices A-B

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