[Lingtyp] Integration of postposed vowel-initial vs consonant-initial morphemes

Martin Haspelmath haspelmath at shh.mpg.de
Thu Aug 27 09:44:16 UTC 2020

Interestingly, the phenomenon described by Hiroto Uchihara occurs in 
German: vowel-initial suffixes (e.g. -ig) are typically described as 
"integrated in the prosodic word", while consonant-initial suffixes are 
described as "non-integrated". For example:

/Farbe/ 'colour'
/farb-ig/ 'colourful' (resyllabified)
/farb-lich/ 'colour-related' (with devoicing: [farp-lɪɕ])

If by "integration" we mean syllabification, then this makes very good 
sense, of course. But by "prosodic word", many authors mean a more 
important domain – one that is potentially relevant to a range of 
different phenomena (e.g. stress, assimilation, ...).

The trouble is that different prosodic word criteria do not always give 
the same results (see Schiering et al. 2010: "The prosodic word is not 
universal, but emergent"). So testing such claims is very difficult.

It seems to me that in addition to the prosodic structure, it is simple 
length (in terms of number of segments) that plays a role: Longer forms 
have a greater tendency to remain independent, while shorter forms have 
a greater tendency to "attach" to a host in some way.


Am 27.08.20 um 04:13 schrieb Tim Zingler:
> Hi,
> my dissertation looks at wordhood (or rather, the problems with it) 
> cross-linguistically, and the facts you report are among the kind of 
> phenomena that I was looking for in grammars. My sample contains 60 
> unrelated languages, but I do not recall a single grammar discussing 
> such an issue at any length. So, I would venture to say that they are 
> not commonly reported, although I should also highlight that 
> theoretical approaches to prosodic wordhood will cite sporadic 
> examples of this kind. (The dissertation should be done later this 
> fall. I would be happy to send out the final version).
> More generally, to the extent that the situation you describe falls 
> within the domain of syllabification, that is a phenomenon that gets 
> surprisingly little attention as an indicator of wordhood, both in 
> grammars and in theoretical works.
> Best,
> Tim
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> *From:* Lingtyp <lingtyp-bounces at listserv.linguistlist.org> on behalf 
> of Hiroto Uchihara <uchihara at buffalo.edu>
> *Sent:* Wednesday, August 26, 2020 6:29 PM
> *To:* Linguistic Typology <lingtyp at listserv.linguistlist.org>
> *Subject:* [Lingtyp] Integration of postposed vowel-initial vs 
> consonant-initial morphemes
> *  [EXTERNAL]*
> Dear all,
> I'm aware of the asymmetry between the preposed and 
> postposed morphemes in terms of their integration into the prosodic 
> constituent with the stem (Himmelman 2014; Asao 2015), but is anyone 
> aware of the difference in the level of integration between the 
> vowel-initial vs consonant-initial postposed morphemes (suffixes or 
> enclitics)?
> I have been observing that this might be the case in a couple of 
> languages, including Teotitlán Zapotec and Alcozauca Mixtec. For 
> instance in Teotitlán Zapotec, vowel-initial enclitics are clearly 
> within the domain of syllabification, while consonant-initial 
> enclitics are not. In Alcozauca Mixtec, it might be the case that 
> vowel-initial enclitics are incorporated into the prosodic word, while 
> consonant-initial enclitics are not. Is this something commonly 
> reported in the literature?
> I would appreciate any insights.
> Best regards,
> Hiroto
> Asao, Yoshihiko. 2015. /Left-Right Asymmetries in Words: A 
> Processing-Based Account/. Ph.D. dissertation, SUNY Buffalo
> Himmelmann, Nikolaus. 2014. Asymmetries in the prosodic phrasing of 
> function words: Another look at the suffixing preference. 
> /Language/90(4). 927–960.
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Martin Haspelmath (haspelmath at shh.mpg.de)
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Deutscher Platz 6
D-04103 Leipzig
Leipzig University
Institut fuer Anglistik
IPF 141199
D-04081 Leipzig

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