The role of sonority in Blackfoot phonotactics*

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University of Calgary
Contrary to appearance (e.g. nómohtsstsiinssoka anni iihtáísttsikaahkiaakio’pi ‘she singed me with the iron’), the phonotactics of Blackfoot, an Algonquian language spoken in southern Alberta and northern Montana, are highly restrictive. In this paper, I describe Blackfoot phonotactics and demonstrate that the distribution of Blackfoot phonemes may be explained with reference to sonority. The role of sonority in phonotactics is a concept which has been well-documented phonologically (Sievers 1881 et seq) and has been shown to have phonetic motivation (Parker 2002). It has been held accountable for universal preferences in syllable structure (for example, the preference for CV syllables), as well as for the sequencing of segments within and across syllables, as evidenced in generalisations such as the Sonority Sequencing Principle. Cross-linguistic study has revealed the universal applicability of the sonority scale (ibid.), a formal ranking of sound classes according to their relative sonority. In Blackfoot, reference to the traditional sonority hierarchy not only motivates the phonotactic constraints but also provides a possible explanation for several morphophonological processes.
Linguistics, Phonology, Algonquian languages, Siksika language, Blackfoot, Morphology, Grammar, Comparative and general--Syllable
Elfner, E. (2005). The role of sonority in Blackfoot phonotactics*. Calgary Working Papers in Linguistics, 26(Spring), 27-91.