A Unified Account of Two Vowel Devoicing Phenomena: the Case of Cheyenne


  • Rachel Vogel Cornell University




Vowel devoicing, Cheyenne, Stratal OT, Domain Generalization


This paper investigates two vowel devoicing processes in Cheyenne, which appear on the surface to be fundamentally different, occurring in distinct segmental and prosodic environments. One process occurs in phrase-final vowels in any segmental environment, while the other occurs only before voiceless consonants in the surface penultimate vowels of some words. The first is consistent with typological expectations and is phonetically grounded, whereas the second is at first glance, neither typologically expected nor phonetically motivated. I provide a unified Stratal Optimality Theory account of these processes, demonstrating that both can, in fact, be treated as cases of domain-final devoicing, and attributed to the same family of positional markedness constraints. Different rankings of the markedness constraints relative to a faithfulness constraint result in different segmental conditions for the two processes. Moreover, I suggest that the two processes may be related via Domain Generalization, whereby a phonetically motivated utterance-final effect phonologizes and extends to smaller prosodic domains. In this way, while the word-level process is not itself phonetically motivated, it can be understood as an extension of another phonetically motivated process in the same language.