The disambiguating effects of phonological exceptions in grammar

Katherine Hout


This paper explores the analytical and typological consequences of lexically-indexed constraints in Optimality Theory; namely, that the introduction of an indexed constraint by an exception can force the determination of otherwise unspecified rankings in the grammar. This “disambiguating” effect makes two important predictions. First, the typology of exceptional blocking is more complex than has been traditionally assumed: in addition to typical non-undergoing (=faithfulness-obeying) exceptions, exceptions that block a regular repair but undergo an alternative instead (referred to here as “walljumping” exceptions) are also predicted to exist. Second, the forced determination effect means that the existence of an exception determines the possibility or impossibility of other exceptional and regular patterns in the grammar. Using two exceptions to the hiatus resolution conspiracy in Mushunguli (Somali Chizigula, ISO [xma]) as a test case, I show that these predictions hold true, and demonstrate that indexed constraints allow for a unified analysis of hiatus resolution in the language. This result builds upon and strengthens prior observations made by Ito & Mester (1995) regarding the behavior of stratal faithfulness constraints, and supports a view of exceptions as clarifying and reifying agents within the grammar.


Mushunguli; Chizigula; Exceptionality; Morpheme-specific Phonology; Optimality Theory; Vowel Hiatus

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Copyright (c) 2019 Katherine Hout