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The Linguistic Review

Editor-in-Chief: van der Hulst, Harry

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Volume 31, Issue 2


How autosegmental is phonology?

Larry M. Hyman
Published Online: 2014-05-30 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/tlr-2014-0004


In this paper I raise the following questions: (i) How appropriate/effective are traditional autosegmental representations? (ii) What insights do autosegmental representations help us express? (iii) Where do autosegmental representations fall short? (iv) What does this all mean for phonology? Although there is still general acceptance of the “basic autosegmental insight”, i.e. that certain features are semi-autonomous from each other and their anchors (e.g. tones vs. tonebearing units), there has been decreasing interest in representational issues in some current approaches to phonology, as well as proposed frameworks which abandon some of the key properties of autosegmental phonology. In this paper I will be particularly interested in the intersection of the following properties assumed in traditional autosegmental phonology: (i) assimilation = spreading; (ii) no line-crossing; (iii) branching elements ≠ successive linking of identical elements. I will first review these three autosegmental assumptions – and the good things they do for us – and then present some unexpected tonal data which are potentially problematic for one or another of these assumptions. After identifying what makes the cited cases problematic and the choices we have in accounting for them, I will conclude with a discussion of the implications such facts have concerning phonology in general.

Keywords: tone; assimilation; spreading; depressor consonants

About the article

Published Online: 2014-05-30

Published in Print: 2014-06-01

Citation Information: The Linguistic Review, Volume 31, Issue 2, Pages 363–400, ISSN (Online) 1613-3676, ISSN (Print) 0167-6318, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/tlr-2014-0004.

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Citing Articles

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Adam Jardine
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Journal of Logic, Language and Information, 2018
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Studies in Language, 2014, Volume 38, Number 4, Page 649

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