Circles: Draga Zec (Cornell)


Friday, November 14, 2014, 4:30pm to 6:00pm


Boylston 104

At the right edge: coda segmentism and coda weight

Abstract: It is widely assumed that the sonority of segments plays an important role in the overall profiling of the syllable, as well  as in the organization of its subparts. In this talk, I will address the effects of sonority at the right edge of the syllable, standardly referred to as the coda. There are at least two perspectives on the effects of sonority at the right margin, both relying  on the sonority scale. First, as proposed in Clements (1990), the inventory of segments in the coda universally observes the sonority hierarchy, with more sonorous segments in the coda of a CVC syllable implying the presence of the less sonorous ones. In other words, the claim is that high sonority segments are generally privileged in the coda. Second, it has been argued that coda weight is governed by sonority, formally addressed with constraints on moraicity (e.g, Zec 1995, Morén 1999), with segments closer to  the sonorous end of the sonority scale being more likely exponents of weight in the coda position of a CVC syllable. A further extension of this view, noted in some proposals, is that coda sonority is controlled exclusively by the constraints on moraicity.

Given that coda weight is not a universal property, under this view it is predicted that high sonority segments are privileged in languages with heavy CVC syllables, but not in languages with light CVC syllables.

My goal is to explore the relevance of these two perspectives on the role of sonority at the right edge of  the syllable both in languages whose CVC syllables are heavy and those with light CVC syllables, relying on a broad survey of cases. The evidence that I bring to this issue strongly suggests that, while sonority does govern the weight of coda segments, it  does not govern coda inventories which, while displaying a wide range of patterns, seem not be sensitive to the weight status of coda segments in any given language, In sum, while coda weight is governed by sonority, coda segmentism is not, regardless of the  weight status of CVC syllables in a given language.