Pycha Colloquim

April 25
Social Sciences 122
University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
Do listeners perceive roots and affixes differently?

Phonology presents us with the fundamental challenge of defining contexts. Of course, we do this whenever we specify the environment in which a specific process takes place (e.g., “in word-final position”), but recurring cross-linguistic patterns suggest the need for deeper characterizations. For example, Hyman (2008) and others have pointed to the odd status of prefixes: unlike suffixes, prefixes rarely trigger changes on roots, and this asymmetry holds for a puzzlingly diverse set of processes, including local assimilation, long-distance vowel and consonant harmonies, and vowel elision. Could we offer a characterization of the “prefix context” (as well as “root” and “suffix”) that would encompass this diversity and account for the recurrence of this asymmetry? I present data from experiments in English and Spanish which suggest that we can.