Adam McCollum (Rutgers) will present, “The atoms of a theory of vowel harmony: Iterativity” on Friday April 22, 2022 at 330pm as part of the Linguistics colloquium series. The presentation will be both in-person and available through Zoom. Abstract can be found below. All are welcome!
The atoms of a theory of vowel harmony: Iterativity
Much linguistic research pursues the discovery of a limited set of atomic elements, e.g., parameters, operations, or constraints, to model human language. While this work is often informed by synchronic typology, diachronic approaches to the human language faculty need not be divorced from synchronic analysis. In this talk, I discuss how the historical decay of rounding harmony in various dialects of Crimean Tatar (Sevortjan 1966; Kavitskaya 2010, 2013) demonstrates the need for (non)iterativity as a core component of a theory of vowel harmony. Through examination of a corpus of 19th century texts, fieldwork, and a production study, I argue that both the diachronic analysis of decay in Crimean Tatar and the synchronic analysis of rounding harmony across Crimean Tatar dialects requires access to iterativity as a theoretical primitive. The centrality of (non)iterativity for a theory of vowel harmony is a challenge for constraint-based grammars with string-based representations (Kaplan 2008). I contend that modelling non-iterativity in a constraint-based grammar requires non-linear representations. As a corollary, any adequate constraint-based theory of vowel harmony must necessarily utilize non-linear representations.