Parallelism and planes in optimality theory: evidence from afar



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The Absence of [y]


In this section I discuss the distribution of [y] in both phonological and morphological environments. I show that [y] does not occur after consonants and propose a constraint to account for this. This constraint also accounts for the non-occurrence of one of the dual–position affixes on consonant–initial verbs.

Phonological Distribution



In this section I discuss the distribution of [y] in phonological environments. For comparison, I contrast [y] with the other glide, [w], to show that this distribution is a property of [y], not glides in general. [w] and [y] share similar distributions except for one situation: when the [y] follows a non-identical consonant. As shown in (143d), [w] can occur after a non-identical consonant whereas [y] never does.37

(143) Distribution of [y] and[w]
a. Before a vowel
yV wV

y-okm-e# wo#kkel

3m-eat there [B11]

he ate [B110]

b. Between vowels
VyV VwV

aca#y-u awi#ita

give-subj eagle (acc) [B126]

that I give [B217]

c. As part of a geminate (underlying)
VyyV VwwV

duyye# qawween-e#

things [B11] forget-perf

I, he forgot [B154]
d. After a consonant
VCy Vcw

* marub-wa#

sheep-pl

sheep (pl) [B210]
e. Before a consonant
VyC VwC

t-eys-eemen-e# awki#

2-caus-believe-perf child [B7]

you caused to believe [B219]

f. After a vowel
...Vy ...Vw

hay ba#xaw Put (imper) [B226] Son (vocative) [B183]



Morphological Alternations



There are also morphological environments where a [y] is expected to occur after a consonant but does not. The first concerns a suffix which attaches to nouns and means “a particular X”, and the second is the masculine third person marker. I discuss the Particular here and delay discussion of the third person marker until Chapter 3.

The Particular suffix has several different forms: -yta/ta, -yto/to, -ytu/tu. The vowel alternation (a~o~u) is not relevant to our purposes and will not be discussed here (See Bliese 1981). Rather, the focus is the alternation between the presence and absence of [y]. The [y] form occurs after vowel-final nouns (144a-d) and the [y]-less forms occur after consonant-final nouns (144e-h).

(144) The Particular

Noun Particular Noun Gloss
a. wakali# wakali#-yta (particular) companion [B175]

baarra# baarra-yto# (particular) woman [B175]

b. tooboko tookobo#-yta brother [PH228]

tookobo-yta# sister [PH228]

c. qayso qayso-yta a tuft of grass [PH228]

d. dummu dummu#-yta male cat [PH228]

dummu-yta# female cat [PH228]
e. cutu#k cutu#k-ta (particular) star [B175]

qaska#r qaska#r -tu (particular) servant [B175]

f. a#qan aqán-tu a/the frog [PH228]

g. ba#sal basa#l-tu onions [PH229]

h. i#gix igi#x-xa scorpions [PH229]

(from igix-ta)

With the Particular suffix, then, we see that [y] appears at the beginning of the affix when it follows a vowel, but that it does not appear when the Particular follows a consonant.

In this section I have shown that [y] has an unusual distribution in Afar: it does not occur following consonants unless it is part of a geminate. I have shown that this is the case with both phonological and morphological evidence. In the Particular suffix a [y] appears when the affix follows a vowel but it does not appear when the affix follows a consonant.

Insertion or Deletion


The question addressed in this section concerns how the phenomenon discussed above, the presence and absence of [y] in certain phonological and morphological environments, is to be analyzed. This phenomenon could be accounted for by a constraint which causes [y] to be inserted in certain environments or by a constraint which requires that [y] not surface in certain environments.

The combination of the phonological distribution of [y] and its distribution in the Particular shows that this constraint must be one of “Y-Deletion” rather than “Y-Insertion”. Recall that the Particular is the of the form -tV/-ytV. It is suffixed to nouns and the /y/ surfaces when it attaches to vowel-final stems but not when it attaches to consonant-final stems.

The previously suggested general constraint disallowing the occurrence of [y] after a consonant will account for the presence of [y] in the Particular: the [y] surfaces just in case it follows a vowel, it does not surface if it follows a consonant. An insertion analysis is also available, however: a [y] must occur following a vowel and preceding a CV suffix.38

The phonological distribution of [y] indicates that the deletion analysis is the correct one. Remember that unlike other consonants, [y] occurs in all environments except following a consonant. A constraint which disallows [y] after consonants accounts for this. A constraint which inserts [y] before a CV suffix does not.

As discussed above, the absence of /y/ following consonants can be accounted for with a constraint which disallows [y] following a consonant.

(145) *Cy: A [y] cannot follow a consonant

In Chapter 3, I show how this accounts for one of the variable-position affixes, a /y/ which surfaces as an onset on vowel-initial verbs but does not surface on verbs where it would follow a consonant. I show how this constraint works with the Particular below. (146) shows that *Cy will require a form with [y] following a consonant to be less optimal than one where there is no [y] following a consonant (146a vs. 146b).

(146) The Particular and *Cy

cutuk-ta

star-particular

A particular star [B175]











cutuk + yta

*Cy

max (c)







a.

cutuk–yta

*!







+

b.

cutuk-ta




*

*Cy will not, however, choose between two forms where one deletes the consonant preceding [y], and one deletes the [y] (147a vs. 147b).

(147) The Particular and *Cy











cutuk + yta

*Cy

max (c)







a.

cutu–yta




*




+

b.

cutuk–ta




*

Deciding between these requires the division of max (c) into more than one constraint. For simplicity, I will represent these using two constraints: max (y) and max (y’). max (y) prohibits the non-parsing of [y]. max (y’) is a cover for the rest of the constraints prohibiting deletion of all consonants except /y/: max (t), max (g), max (q), etc. If max (y’) is ranked above max (y), the correct result is obtained, as shown in (148).

(148) The Particular and *Cy











cutuk + yta

*Cy

max (y’)

max (y)







a.

cutuk–yta

*!













b.

cutu–yta




*!







+

c.

cutuk–ta







*

Both *Cy and max (y’) must be ranked above max (y) as can be seen by comparing (148a & b) with (148c). The resulting constraint hierarchy is shown below.

(149) Constraints Needed for the Non-appearance of [y]


In this section I have shown that /y/ is different from other consonants in that it never follows consonants (except as part of a geminate) even though it precedes consonants and it can precede or follow vowels. This distribution is also exhibited when [y] is the initial element of a morpheme such as the Particular, where it appears after vowels but does not occur following consonants. I have proposed a constraint of the form *Cy, which disallows [y]s from occurring following consonants. Additionally, I showed that the max constraints must be divided into two constraints to capture the fact that when [y] follows the consonant in the input, it is the [y] that deletes to satisfy *Cy rather than the preceding consonant. In Chapter 3, I discuss a verbal case where a /y/ does not surface, the third person masculine marker on consonant-initial verbs.

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