From phonology to syntax — and back again: Hierarchical structure in Irish and Blackfoot

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The interface between phonology and syntax is a tool that can be used to provide additional evidence for study in one grammatical component or the other. Through understanding how these components interact, one can use syntactic constituent structure to control for prosodic confounds in experimentation. Conversely, one can use phonological evidence to decide between competing syntactic analyses. In ideal cases, phonological and syntactic evidence can be used in tandem, allowing converging evidence to reinforce a hypothesis. In this dissertation, I undertake three case studies to highlight: i. how a knowledge of syntactic constituent structure can increase control over prosodic variables and enable more efficient phonological research; ii. how an understanding of prosodic constituent structure can be used to motivate an underlying syntactic structure at spell-out and enable analysis of morphosyntactic features and operations before spell-out; and, iii. how the use of phonological and syntactic study in tandem can help rule out competing analyses. The first case study utilizes an analysis of syntactic constituent structure to control for different levels of prosodic prominence. The analysis of prominence made possible by syntactic assumptions allows the establishment of a hypothesis into the origins of a stress-shift phenomenon in one dialect of Irish. The second case study correlates observable sound alternations to prosodic boundaries and morpho-syntactic categories in Blackfoot. The analysis of prosodic structure facilitates the formation of a hypothesis about suffixation that is suggested to be the result of syntactic agreement, rather than head-movement operations. The third case study uses the phonological and syntactic analyses from both of the preceding studies and applies those findings to analyze the prosodic and syntactic constituency of demonstratives in both Irish and Blackfoot. A hypothesis towards a common structure for nominal expressions in the two languages is suggested, despite obvious surface differences in realization. Finally, predictions based on that hypothesis are made with questions for future cross-linguistic research. Each of the case studies examined herein contribute to the over-arching goal of the dissertation: To understand how cross-component evidence can provide additional insight and research tools towards a specific problem in one grammatical component or the other.
Windsor, J. W. (2017). From phonology to syntax — and back again: Hierarchical structure in Irish and Blackfoot (Doctoral thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from doi:10.11575/PRISM/26235