Recursivity in Phonology, Below and Above the Word - RecPhon2019 Conference

Country: Spain

City: Barcelona

Abstr. due: 01.06.2019

Dates: 21.11.19 — 22.11.19

Area Of Sciences: Humanities;

Organizing comittee e-mail:

Organizers: Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona


Recursion, i.e. unbounded nesting, has long been seen as a fundamental cognitive property of the language faculty, usually associated with the syntactic component of the grammar. One of the achievements of phonological research in the previous century was the discovery of structured patterns within the continuous flow of sounds in spoken language. In the early eighties, the exploration of such patterns gave rise to the development of Prosodic Phonology, whose tenet is that phonological constituency is analogous, but not structurally identical, to morphosyntactic constituency. According to Prosodic Phonology, the constituent structure of phonological forms is defined in terms of the Prosodic Hierarchy, a hierarchy of a finite set of universal prosodic categories, i.e. the syllable - the metrical foot - the phonological word - the phonological phrase - the intonational phrase - the utterance. In the early days of Prosodic Phonology, it was assumed that all prosodic representations complied with the Strict Layer Hypothesis. According to this hypothesis, a category of level i in the hierarchy immediately dominates a (sequence of) categories of level i−1.

However recursive higher-ordered prosodic categories, such as the phonological phrase and the intonational phrase, were promptly advocated in the literature. With the arrival of Optimality Theory, the Strict Layer Hypothesis was relaxed and recursive structures were posited to account for a wide range of phonological phenomena, including the prosodification of function elements into recursive phonological words. Recursive structures have recently been proposed for prosodic categories below the phonological word, most notably for the metrical foot, but also for syllables and even moras. A substantial body of research has argued that recursive feet account for ternary stress patterns and also facilitate a unified account of several foot-conditioned segmental and tonal distributions. In the literature on the syntax-phonology interface, recursivity above the phonological word has received renewed attention, especially since the appearance of Match Theory. At the other end of the spectrum, we find work on the syntax-phonology interface that completely rejects prosodic constituency, and derives instead the relevant domains for phonological computation from syntactic phases.

Call for Papers:

Research Questions

We encourage speakers to address, although not exclusively, some of the research questions formulated below, either arguing in favor or against recursivity in phonology, and from any theoretical perspective and methodology, including phonological formal analyses of particular languages, language typology, language acquisition, laboratory phonology, psycholinguistics or neurolinguistics.

- Does recursivity in phonology exist at all?
- If recursivity in phonology exists, what exactly can or cannot trigger a recursive structure in the domain of the syntax-phonology interface?
- Is recursivity restricted to higher-ordered phonological constituents like the phonological phrase and the intonational phrase? If so, why?
- What is the empirical evidence to posit recursive structures above the word?
- Does ternarity exist in phonology (at the level of the metrical foot or at higher-ordered levels) or should it be derived from recursive structures?
- If recursivity in phonology also exists below the level of the phonological word, does it show an upper bound on nesting?
- Does recursivity also exist below the level of the metrical foot, i.e. the syllable, the mora?
- What is the empirical evidence to posit recursive structures below the word?
- What does recursivity add to the prosodic bootstrapping hypothesis, the idea that L1 learners use prosodic features as a cue to identify more abstract properties of grammar such as syntactic constituency?
- Can neural correlates of phonological recursion be observed?

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