The computational nature of stress assignment


  • Nate Koser Rutgers University
  • Adam Jardine Rutgers University



Stress, Computational Complexity


While computational studies of stress patterns as phonotactics have yielded restrictive characterizations of stress (Rogers et al., 2013) with provably correct learning procedures (Heinz, 2009), an outstanding question is the nature of stress assignment as a function which assigns stress to an underlying bare string of syllables. This paper fills this gap by locating stress patterns with respect to the subsequential class of functions (Mohri, 1997), which are argued to be important for phonology in that the vast majority of phonological functions fall within the subsequential boundary (Heinz & Lai, 2013; Chandlee, 2014), with the notable exception of tone and vowel harmony (Jardine, 2016; McCollum et al., under review). The main result is that – while most, if not all quantity insensitive (QI) stress systems are subsequential functions – the same does not hold for quantity sensitive (QS) systems. Counter-intuitively, so-called default-to-opposite QS patterns are subsequential, but default-to-same QS patterns are provably not. It also supports the claim of Jardine (2016) that certain tonal patterns are non-sequential because their suprasegmental nature allows for more a more powerful computation. As stress assignment is also suprasegmental, the existence of non-sequential stress functions adds evidence for this conclusion.