Weak and Semiweak Phonological Positions in English

Katalin Balogné Bérges

Abstract


The paper argues that, besides the distinction between strong and weak phonological positions, a further dichotomy of weak and semiweak positions is justified in English, manifesting itself in consonant lenition as well as vowel reduction and syncope. Namely, a consonant/vowel immediately following the metrical head is more prone to lenite/reduce than a later consonant/vowel. An extensive discussion of the relevant data, taken from t-allophony and vowel reduction, as well as the introduction of the novel results of an investigation of schwa syncope in British English are provided. The analysis is set in a subbranch of Government Phonology called Strict CV (or CVCV) phonology, in which a licensed position is strong, a governed position is weak, and one which is both licensed and governed is semiweak. It is also shown that previous accounts of some of the data, making reference to foot adjunction structure, handle the observed facts inadequately either because they are unable to predict the observed patterning of strong vs. semiweak realisations, or because they allow for reduction where it is not on record.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18172/jes.160

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© Universidad de La Rioja, 2013

ISSN 1576-6357

EISSN 1695-4300