Towards a typology of disharmony


Abstract
We propose an OT-theoretic typology of vowel harmony systems based on a comparative study of front/back harmony. Harmony processes are governed by a general constraint that imposes feature agreement on neighboring segments. Disharmonic (“neutral”) segments arise when this constraint is dominated by markedness constraints and/or by faithfulness constraints that govern segment inventories. These constraint interactions determine whether disharmonic segments are opaque or transparent, and fix the cross-linguistically diverse behavior of the latter. We make crucial use of two modes of local constraint conjunction, which are already implicit in the current theory. Our proposal restricts this theory by eliminating the possibility of freely stipulating the domain of local conjunction.
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