25.3165, Diss: English; Comp Ling, Morphology, Phonology, Text/Corpus Ling: Shih: 'Towards Optimal Rhythm'

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LINGUIST List: Vol-25-3165. Mon Aug 04 2014. ISSN: 1069 - 4875.

Subject: 25.3165, Diss: English; Comp Ling, Morphology, Phonology, Text/Corpus Ling: Shih: 'Towards Optimal Rhythm'

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Date: Mon, 04 Aug 2014 07:48:30
From: Stephanie Shih [shih at ucmerced.edu]
Subject: Towards Optimal Rhythm

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Institution: Stanford University 
Program: Department of Linguistics 
Dissertation Status: Completed 
Degree Date: 2014 

Author: Stephanie Sin-Yun Shih

Dissertation Title: Towards Optimal Rhythm 

Linguistic Field(s): Computational Linguistics
                     Text/Corpus Linguistics

Subject Language(s): English (eng)

Dissertation Director(s):
Sharon Inkelas
Arto Anttila

Dissertation Abstract:

This thesis argues that rhythmic well-formedness preferences contribute to 
conditioning morphosyntactic choices, providing evidence from patterns in 
language use that constraints on phonological constructs are at work in the 
assessment of competing morphosyntactic variants. The results of the thesis 
call into question a fundamental empirical assumption underlying many 
standard models of grammar and of language production: that metrical or 
segmental phonology cannot influence morphosyntactic encoding.
Phonologically-conditioned morphological phenomena are of familiar stock. 
Phonological constraints can force blocking of morphological processes and 
combinatorics, resulting in a number of repair strategies: re-ordering, 
periphrasis, deletion, and suppletion. It is shown in this thesis that 
phonologically-conditioned syntactic phenomena follow a similar typological 
spread. The same phonological constraints that interfere with morphology 
also operate across word and phrase boundaries, triggering repairs of word 
(re-)ordering, periphrasis/paraphrasing, deletion, and suppletion (i.e., lexeme 
Two empirical studies of the rhythmic conditioning of word choice (e.g., 
personal name choice) and syntactic choice (e.g., genitive alternation) in 
English are presented. The case studies demonstrate that rhythmic 
optimization, in addition to other phonological well-formedness preferences 
such as phonotactic co-occurrence restrictions, are active in word and 
construction variation in syntagmatic contexts. It is furthermore shown that the 
effect of rhythm is closely tied to semantic factors such as animacy, which 
reveals that rhythm must interact and compete with non-phonological 
constraints in the system.
Allowing interaction between phonological material and morphosyntactic 
choices raises the issue of how much surface and underlying phonetic and 
phonological information is available at the point of morphosyntactic 
computation. Rhythm offers a natural test case of the availability of underlying 
versus post-lexically specified information via the distinction in stress 
properties of lexical (content) and grammatical (function) words. A large-scale 
corpus study of content and function word stress in conversational American 
English is presented. Results of the study point to complex differences 
between word categories in terms of underlying and surface stress properties. 
These differences in stress not only trigger differences in rhythmic 
optimization by word category but they also demonstrate that morphosyntactic 
competitors are assessed without consideration of the potential output of 
surface rhythmic optimization. In contrast, evidence from end weight 
phenomena suggests that lexically-encoded information about underlying 
phonological stress is available during morphosyntactic computation.
The view that emerges from the empirical studies in this thesis is one that 
allows for potential phonological influence on morphological and syntactic 
outputs. The phonological constraints that are most active will necessarily be 
ones that regulate syntagmatic effects that occur when words combine in the 
morphosyntax, and these phonological constraints—including the propensity 
towards optimal rhythm—must compete for satisfaction against other active, 
non-phonological pressures.

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