Phantom structure: A representational account of floating tone association

Nicholas Rolle, Florian Lionnet


This paper focuses on the association of floating tones. One type we call "phonological association", where the tone-bearing unit (TBU) the floating tone associates to is determined by the phonological grammar, e.g. to a default position like a stressed syllable or domain edge. We contrast this with another type we call "targeted association", whereby the floating tone targets a numerical position , e.g. a floating H associates to the fourth TBU of the stem. Targeted association is idiosyncratic to the sponsoring morpheme, and does not necessarily target a default position. Such data have been taken as evidence for counting in grammar. Instead, we propose a novel representation we call "phantom structure", without counting. Phantom structure formalizes the observation that certain morphemes require structure to be present in order for their floating tone to be realized, but cannot provide this structure themselves. Under the targeted association type, the floating tone is pre-associated to a specific position in the phantom structure. We show that a simple grammar with two partially overlapping correspondence relations - substantive input and output structure (SubO-CORR) and phantom and output structure (PhO-CORR) - derives the association of the floating tone to the equivalent numerical position in the output as in the phantom plane input.


Tone; Floating tone; Phonological representation; Counting effects; Phantom structure; Optimality Theory

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Copyright (c) 2020 Nicholas Rolle, Florian Lionnet

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