The role of syntax in the Nuclear Stress Rule

Author(s): Byron Ahn

Abstract

How directly phrasal stress (PS) placement (Nuclear Stress Rule, NSR) refers to syntax is theory-dependent: directly in some (Truckenbrodt 1995, Kahnemuyipour 2004), indirectly in others (Chomsky & Halle 1968, Halle & Vergnaud 1987). Adequately evaluating this issue requires knowing both relevant syntactic structures and how syntax interacts with phonology – neither is trivial. This paper argues syntax transparently feeds prosody at subintervals of structure building (Uriagereka 1999, Chomsky 2001), and the NSR refers directly to syntactic hierarchy, without exception. Wherever the NSR's predictions are incorrect, the syntactic representation must be amended (Steedman 2000, Wagner 2005). Consider this data, from a focus-neutral context. (Capitals indicate PS.) 1. a. Marie locked her BIKE to herself. b. I won't zip my PANTS up. 2. a. Marie locked her bike to ITSELF. b. My pants won't zip UP. Typically “metrically invisible” elements in (1) bear PS in (2), after only syntactic context (i.e. anaphor's binder / presence of object) is manipulated, implicating syntax's direct role in the NSR. If PS reflects syntax, this necessitates new syntactic representations for (1)/(2) – independently concluded elsewhere, based on non-prosodic evidence. An exceptionless NSR means PS reliably informs children about syntax – especially desirable given prosodic bootstrapping’s power.

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