Some inventory-related asymetries in the patterning of tongue root harmony systems


  • Roderic F. Casali


vowel harmony, advanced tongue root, typology, markedness, vowel length, vowel inventories


Earlier studies (e.g., Casali 2003, 2008) have presented evidence of significant differences in assimilatory tendencies in vowel systems that have an [ATR] contrast in high vowels (“/2IU/ systems”) and those that have an [ATR] contrast only in non-high vowels (“/1IU/ systems”). Whereas assimilatory dominance of [+ATR] vowels is highly characteristic of the former, [-ATR] dominance is more typical of the latter. This paper investigates some further differences in the characteristic patterning of the two systems. I present evidence that /2IU/ and /1IU/ systems show essentially opposite markedness relations in respect to their non-low vowels, as diagnosed by distributional restrictions and positional neutralization. In /2IU/ systems it is quite common for [-ATR] vowels [ɪ], [ʊ], [ɛ], [ɔ] to be more widely distributed than their [+ATR] counterparts [i], [u], [e], [o], suggesting that the former are unmarked. In contrast, /1IU/ systems characteristically treat [-ATR] [ɪ], [ʊ], [ɛ], [ɔ] as marked relative to their [+ATR] counterparts. Low vowels do not show the same kind of striking reversal of markedness tendencies in the two systems that non-low vowels do. I argue, nevertheless, that some system-related differences can be observed in the patterning of low vowels as well.