Creating boundaries and stops in German: An analysis in Universal Boundary Theory

Samuel Andersson


This paper discusses the nature of prosodic representations, focusing on a case study from the phonology of Standard High German. This language displays devoicing, previously argued to be sensitive to syllables, and glottal stop epenthesis, previously argued to be sensitive to feet. This seems to require at least two prosodic constituents, the syllable and the foot. However, I show that the data can be analyzed straightforwardly in Universal Boundary Theory (UBT), a non-hierarchical theory of prosodic representations using only a single boundary symbol |. I introduce the central assumptions of UBT, and show that the theory can handle the syllable- and foot-level phonology of German, including affix-specific behavior and phase-based interactions between the syntax and phonology. I argue that UBT provides a better account of devoicing than a class of earlier analyses based on syllables. Moving beyond German, UBT predicts the existence of a new prosodic universal which cannot be captured by a traditional prosodic hierarchy: phonological processes apply top-down, from larger to smaller prosodic units. Future typological work will shed light on the crosslinguistic validity of this prediction.


German; hierarchy; syllable; foot; devoicing; epenthesis; sonority; syntax-phonology interface; exceptionality

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Copyright (c) 2020 Samuel Andersson

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