Ryan Bennett publishes paper in NLLT

July 24, 2013

Congratulations to assistant professor Ryan Bennett and his co-author Robert Henderson (Wayne State University), who have published their paper “Accent in Uspanteko” in the current issue of Natural Language & Linguistic Theory (NLLT)Uspanteko is an endangered K’ichean-branch Mayan language spoken in Guatemala. It is the only K’ichean language to have both a system of contrastive pitch accent and a separate system of non-contrastive stress. The prosody of Uspanteko is of general typological interest, given the relative scarcity of ‘mixed’ languages employing both stress and lexical pitch. Drawing from a descriptive grammar and their own fieldwork, the authors document interactions between pitch accent and other aspects of the phonology (stress placement, vowel length, vowel quality, and deletion). While pitch accent is closely tied to morphology, the location of lexical tone is entirely a matter of surface phonology. They propose that the position of pitch accent and stress is determined by three factors: (i) feet are always right-aligned, and preferably iambic; (ii) pitch accent must fall on a stressed syllable; and (iii) pitch accent cannot fall on a final mora. These assumptions derive default final stress, as well as a regular pattern of tone-triggered stress shift. In addition, the authors provide arguments for foot structure and lexical strata in Uspanteko.

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