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A morpheme-based approach to subtractive pluralisation in German dialects

  • Björn Köhnlein (a1)

Various German dialects delete certain word-final plosives in plural forms (e.g. [hʊnt] ‘dog’ vs. [hʊn] ‘dogs’). I claim that this type of subtractive pluralisation is best analysed as an epiphenomenon resulting from the affixation of a disyllabic trochaic foot. This metrical template can create word-final empty-headed syllables; subtraction targets the onset of these syllables. Independent evidence comes from related phenomena, for the first time unified in a comprehensive account. Firstly, all varieties with word-final consonant subtraction delete the same consonants in the onset of post-tonic syllables containing a vowel. Additionally, some dialects display predictable interactions of consonant subtraction with either vowel shortening or the assignment of tonal accent. The proposal in this paper supports the idea that morphology is generally additive, and that subtraction can be derived from prosodic affixation. I thus argue that using more sophisticated independently motivated phonological representations can help to simplify the morphological grammar.

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For helpful comments and discussion, I would like to thank the anonymous referees, the associate editor and editors of Phonology, as well as Becca Morley and the the ‘Phonies’ discussion group at the Ohio State University. Useful suggestions also came from the participants of the 9th North American Phonology Conference and the 24th Manchester Phonology Meeting. The usual disclaimers apply.

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