The Interface Within

What Relationships Hold between Prosody and Melody?


Dates March 13, 2017

Invited speakers: Harry van der Hulst; Violeta Martínez-Paricio, Shanti Ulfsbjornin

Location: Meertens Instituut, Amsterdam, the Netherlands (here are the address and a map )

The programme is here (pdf).


It has been long known that suprasegmental and segmental phonology are to a large extent separate domains, playing out differently in empirical domains such as language change and language acquisition, in their interaction with other modules (there is more mutual visibility between prosody and syntax, whereas segmental phonology seems to interface more clearly with phonetics). Also, in many frameworks, they are represented with different formal tools (e.g. metrical vs. autosegmental phonology).

At the same time, the two dimensions of phonology clearly sometimes interact, as in phenomena as diverse as vowel reduction, formation at foot boundaries, most phenomena related to sonority, etc. To the extent we can therefore break up the two into different ‘modules’ of grammar, they need to interface at some point.

What is the nature of this interface? Is it the traditional skeleton, under one of its guises (moras, x-slots, …)? Is there not really an interface and are there two sides of one coin? Is prosody merely a projection of segmental content?

We would like to promote a discussion on the insights of various approaches to this issue with respect to both (observational/descriptive/explanatory) adequacy and theoretical consistency/elegance. Hence, the following are among the questions we invite the participants to discuss:

  • Which are the relevant empirical generalisations to be taken into account and how do theories fare with respect to these?
  • Which is the most elegant theory and what does elegance mean in this domain?
  • What are the consequences of the choice being made for theories of the interface with morphosyntax, language aquisition, language change, etc.?

Among the empirical battlefields on which to test the approaches just mentioned, (in)visibility could play a decisive role. E.g. what are the melodic properties that are relevant/visible to prosody? Why is it that stress cares about vowel height but not about place (the difference between /i/ and /e/ is important but not the difference between /i/ and /u/)? Why is it that tone can easily see laryngeal features but hardly any other feature? And where, for that matter, does a phenomenon such as tone fall under this division?

Organisers: Bert Botma (Leiden University), Edoardo Cavirani, Ben Hermans, Marc van Oostendorp (Meertens Institute, Amsterdam), Francesc Torres-Tamarit (CNRS)

This workshop is a GLOW Workshop. Please note that the GLOW Conference takes place in Leiden in the week immediately following March 13; the program includes a workshop on the phonology-syntax interface on March 14. See the conference website for details. The workshop we are proposing here takes place at the Meertens Institute, in Amsterdam. By locating this workshop at the Meertens Institute the Meertens-organizers want to inaugurate the institute’s new building. The trip from Amsterdam to Leiden takes approximately 30 minutes by train.