Author Topic: Difference between phonological and morphophological rules  (Read 60 times)

Offline ncl62

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Difference between phonological and morphophological rules
« on: November 08, 2017, 05:19:04 PM »
Can anybody help clarify for me the theoretical distinction between phonological rules and morphophonological rules?

For example, let's say there's a language with the distinct phonemes /s/ and /t͡s/. In this language, affricates never occur after a nasal. We have a morpheme -t͡sunu. When the morpheme n- is added as a prefix to t͡sunu, the result is nsunu. There is also a morpheme -sunu which, when combined with n- produces nsunu as well.

What should the phonemic representation of //n+t͡sunu// be: /nt͡sunu/ or /nsunu/? In other words, is postnasal deaffrication a phonological rule causing /nt͡sunu/ (the product of //n+t͡sunu//) to be realized phonetically as [nsunu] or is it a morphophonological rule causing //n+t͡sunu// to be realized phonemically as /nsunu/, which is then realized phonetically as [nsunu]?

I do not know how to tell whether this postnasal deaffrication is a phonological or morphophonological process.

I suspect it might be phonological on the grounds that no [nt͡s] occurs in the language, so the distinction between /t͡s/ and /s/ is neutralized in the postnasal context. However, the only way to demonstrate this deaffrication unambiguously is by combining morphemes, which would suggest that the phenomenon can only occur across morpheme boundaries.

Please share your thoughts and evidence. Thanks!

Offline Daniel

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Re: Difference between phonological and morphophological rules
« Reply #1 on: November 08, 2017, 07:07:28 PM »
I would generally say that it depends on the theory and how you analyze the lexicon. Either analysis could work potentially.

Generally a morphological rule should only be posited if necessary. So if you are simply combining phonemes that change based on general phonological rules, there is no need to add morphology to that.

So assume the underlying representation is the one with the affricate in your examples, and then simplify that cluster based on the general phonological rule. No need to add allomorphs or different morphological tiers of phonological analysis.

Of course in some cases you might need to refer to morphology in your analysis if there is a difference between general phonology and special cases in morphology. Or there might be a theoretically motivated reason to do that.
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Offline ncl62

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Re: Difference between phonological and morphophological rules
« Reply #2 on: November 09, 2017, 05:37:04 AM »
Thank you, Daniel. So the goal is to describe the system in the fewest rules, with a preference for the more general or automatic rules (the phonological ones).

Would it make sense then to posit an archiphoneme for either /s/ or /t͡s/ in a postnatal environment within a morpheme (as opposed to one created by the joining of two morphemes)? For instance, morpheme [ansa] could theoretically be either underlying /ansa/ or /ant͡sa/ and there is generally no way to tell which, unless perhaps another dialect does not engage in postnasal deaffrication and reveals the actual underlying composition. Or would that be unnecessarily complicating the system?

Offline Daniel

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Re: Difference between phonological and morphophological rules
« Reply #3 on: November 09, 2017, 08:44:18 AM »
Well, what evidence is there that /ts/ exists at all? If you have some evidence, and the contrast is neutralized in that environment, then yes, that would make sense.
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Offline panini

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Re: Difference between phonological and morphophological rules
« Reply #4 on: November 09, 2017, 09:19:22 AM »
When the morpheme n- is added as a prefix to t͡sunu, the result is nsunu. There is also a morpheme -sunu which, when combined with n- produces nsunu as well.
The most important question that the analyst would have for you is, what is your evidence that the output is nsunu and not nt͡sunu? How do you know that affricates don't occur after nasals? The distribution you describe is common, and typically the fact is that fricatives and affricates don't contrast after a nasal, but you don't know exactly which thing it is that comes after a nasal. Perhaps only affricates (not fricatives) appear nasals. Perhaps an acoustic study of NC sequences supports the analysis: anyway, there has to be some argument in support of the conclusion you've offered.

The distinction between is a phonological and  morphophonological process is a rather old-fashioned one, valid only in certain views of linguistic analysis. Even then, there was no requirement that there also be morpheme-internal applications of a given phonological rule. It is nearly a logical necessity that such a rule could only be demonstrated unambiguously by combining morphemes, because non-alternating morpheme-internal sequences are always ambiguous: X derives by rule, or X is present underlyingly. You can sometimes satisfy the 'purely morpheme internal' desideratum and still get unequivocal evidence for the representation if there is syncope or epenthesis, e.g /ans-a/ → [ant͡sa], /ans/ → [anis].

If there are no roots in the language like either [int͡se] or [inse] (a complete gap) that there would be no potential morpheme-internal applications of the neutralization rule. In no theory that I am aware of does that mean that such a neutralization is non-phonological.

Perhaps look at Trubetzkoy's book to understand the basic theory of neutralization, which is what is involved in the situation which you describe.