University of British Columbia
This work presents an analysis of the phonotactics of Gitksan, a Tsimshianic language spoken in northern British Columbia, Canada, and is based on an electronic lexical database of the language compiled by the author. The results of this study reveal that Gitksan exhibits several gradient phonological restrictions on consonantal cooccurrence that hold over the lexicon. There is a gradient restriction on homorganic consonants, and within homorganic pairs, there is a gradient restriction on major class and manner features. It is claimed that these restrictions are due to a generalized Obligatory Contour Principle (OCP) effect in the grammar, and that this effect can be relativized to subsidiary features, such as place, manner, etc. It is argued that these types of effects are most naturally analyzed with the system of weighted constraints employed in Harmonic Grammar.
In addition to these dissimilatory effects, it is also claimed that Gitksan exhibits a gradient assimilatory effect among specific consonants. This type of effect is rare, and is unexpected given the general conditions of dissimilation in the language. One such effect is the frequency of both pulmonic pairs of consonants and ejective pairs of consonants, which occur at rates higher than expected by chance. Another is the occurrence of uvular-uvular and velar-velar pairs of consonants, which also occur at rates higher than chance. This pattern is somewhat surprising, as there exists an overall gradient prohibition on cooccurring pairs of dorsal consonants. These assimilatory patterns are analyzed using the Agreement by Correspondence approach, which mandates that output correspondents agree for some phonological feature.
The analysis presented in this work has implications for other areas of the phonology of Gitksan, and for phonological theory generally. These areas include the representation of laryngeal features and of the “guttural” class of consonants, the learnability of gradient patterns, and the role that constraints play in both dissimilatory and assimilatory effects.
Jason Brown is a postdoctoral fellow in the department of linguistics at the University of British Columbia.
ISBN 9783895865893. LINCOM Studies in Native American Linguistics 63. 125 pp. 2010.