Research Seminar: Samuel Akinbo

Samuel Akinbo will present a research seminar on Backness Harmony in Fungwa.


Abstract: The analyses of root-controlled harmony involving clitic and affix targets assume prosodic word (PWd) as the domain of harmony (e.g. Hudu, 2013; Kimper, 2011; Akinlabi, 2009, etc.). Although research has shown cliticization and affixation involve prosodic integration (Selkirk, 1980; Booij, 1996; Peperkamp, 1999), the analyses of harmony rarely incorporate constraints nor structure of PWd. This poses an analytical gap and raises questions on (1) what triggers the prosodic integration of affixes and clitics into the domain of harmony; (2) the effect of constraints on PWd in harmony. Using an optimality theory (OT) framework (Prince & Smolensky, 2008), this presentation shows the constraint on PWd triggers the prosodic integration of clitics and affixes into the domain of harmony and accounts for a stem-affix disharmony. This presentation is based on backness vowel harmony in Fungwa (Kainji, Benue-Congo), an endangered language with about 1000 speakers in Nigeria. In Fungwa, root morphemes are onsetful and mostly bisyllabic. In addition, vowel melody of CV- prefixes and CV clitics agrees in backness with an adjacent root vowel. However, vowel-initial prefixes do not agree in backness with an adjacent root vowel. Using OT framework, onsetfulness and bisyllabicity of root morphemes are accounted for with Minimality and ONSET constraints respectively. Given all the targets of harmony are CV clitic and prefixes, they could not form PWd on their own and would violate Minimality even if they do. So, to fulfil Minimality, the onsetful clitics and prefixes are integrated into PWd, the domain of harmony. The vowel of the clitic and prefixes harmonizing with the root vowel serves as evidence for prosodic integration. Given the onsetless prefixes violate ONSET constraint, they are excluded or prosodically misaligned with PWd.


*Note: This event is eligible for LOC credit. That said, we remind students to please treat this event respectfully: please attend only if you are able to be present for the entire presentation and discussion (within the posted time limits, i.e. arriving by 12:30 and staying until 1:30), and understand that this is a high-level, research-oriented session. The topic and discussion may not be entirely accessible to those without a fair bit of linguistic training.