Features and Recursive Structure


  • Kuniya Nasukawa Tohoku Gakuin University




phonology, Government Phonology, Element Theory, Recursion


Based on the cross-linguistic tendency that weak vowels are realized with a central quality such as ə, ɨ, or ɯ, this paper attempts to account for this choice by proposing that the nucleus itself is one of the three monovalent vowel elements |A|, |I| and |U| which function as the building blocks of melodic structure. I claim that individual languages make a parametric choice to determine which of the three elements functions as the head of a nuclear expression. In addition, I show that elements can be freely concatenated to create melodic compounds. The resulting phonetic value of an element compound is determined by the specific elements it contains and by the head-dependency relations between those elements. This concatenation-based recursive mechanism of melodic structure can also be extended to levels above the segment, thus ultimately eliminating the need for syllabic constituents. This approach reinterprets the notion of minimalism in phonology by opposing the string-based flat structure.