Being exceptional is being weak: Tonal exceptions in San Miguel el Grande Mixtec

Eva Zimmermann


The assumption of Gradient Symbolic Representations (Smolensky & Goldrick 2016; Rosen 2016) allows a unified account of lexical exceptions to phonological generalizations or processes. It states that phonological elements can have different degrees of presence in an underlying representation, expressed as numerical activities. In this paper, I strengthen the argument for Gradient Symbolic Representations and provide a case study of two seemingly unrelated exceptions in the tonal phonology of San Miguel el Grande Mixtec that receive a unified explanation under the assumption of gradient activity. In addition, I argue for a modification of the original Gradient Symbolic Representation assumption and propose the existence of gradient activity in the output. This assumption allows to predict markedness-driven exceptionality patterns that remain unexplained in the original proposal.


Gradient Symbolic Representations; Exceptions; Tone; Otomanguean; Harmonic Grammar

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Copyright (c) 2018 Eva Zimmermann