Shanti Ulfsbjorninn: The Law of Double Consonants — Revisited
Tuesday, Nov. 7, 12-12:50 p.m.
The Law of Double Consonants (a.k.a. Schneider’s Law) is found in Inuit languages. This rule is traditionally defined as a ban on consonant clusters and geminates immediately following closed syllables, leading to deletion of the second cluster/geminate in these cases. Since it was formulated by
Schneider back in (1966, 1970, 1972-1976), it has proven resistant to formal analysis. As noted by Dresher & Johns (D&J) (1995), the chief challenge in the analysis is that the process looks distinctly metrical, however, the pattern does not conform to any metrical structures evident in the language itself. Moreover, worse, it would imply a metrics sensitive to consonant clusters but not long vowels; a pattern
that is unattested typologically and violates a phonological universal. However, if the solution is not metrical, what is it?
Discussing it in purely dissimilatory terms (e.g. Latin: milit-a*l/ris) misses the specificity of the pattern, and leaves other details unexplained: why is it the second/rightmost geminate
that gets simplified. Existing approaches such as D&J’s have focused on providing an answer based on some kind of licensing such as positional or prosodic licensing (Itô 1982, Steriade 1994; Kaye et al. 1990; Charette 1990). Instead, Markoulaki & Topintzi (2022) take a different approach and propose to base the phenomenon in terms of the markedness of geminates: *GσG. However, this is a non-starter since Sallirmiutun makes it clear that in the LDC the true trigger for degemination is an adjacent closed syllable of any kind, not just a geminate. D&J suggest the first licensing account, however, the details of one of their proposed mechanisms ‘direct’ and ‘indirect government’ are not well supported theoretically or empirically. Rose et al. (2012), building on D&J, provide a narrower and better characterisation the whole phenomenon: it is specifically a degemination process following any closed syllable. Along with a suggestive diachronic account, they also focus on the licensing of codas in ‘prominent syllables’ as defined by rhymal complexity. However, just why/how rhymal complexity – but not vowel length – should lead to ‘prominence’ is left synchronically unexplained.
We will propose a new licensing-based analysis, but not a traditional one where licensing is regulating the existence of positions. Instead, licensing will be seen to be responsible for permitting the formation of new association lines, without which cross-morphemic gemination is impossible.
Presented by Department of Linguistics