Cyclic spell-out and the interaction of Seenku tonal processes

Laura McPherson

This paper demonstrates how tone can provide clues about large-scale grammatical architecture, by focusing on the interaction between three tonal processes in Seenku, a Mande language of Burkina Faso with a four-height tone system (tones: eL, L, H, eH). First, a phonotactic restriction against H in word-final position in open class vocabulary triggers epenthesis of eL, creating a H-eL contour. Second, plurals are formed in part by a raising tonal chain shift, argued to be due to the suffixation of a [+raised] feature. Third, the tone of inalienably possessed nouns changes according to the possessor (spreading from non-pronominal possessors, a series of tonal alternations triggered by pronominal possessors). The interaction of these three processes points to systemic cyclicity, rather than word-level cyclicity in the phonology: the possessor must undergo all tonal processes first, as the raised plural tone or epenthesized eL can spread to the possessed noun. Within the possessed noun’s cycle, it must undergo possessive interactions before plural formation. The facts can be accounted for in a framework of cyclic spell-out, where more deeply embedded phases (here, the possessor’s DP) are sent to spell-out and receive morphophonological form before less deeply embedded phases (the overarching DP containing the possessed noun). Further, the order of processes within a cycle points to Morphology before Phonology in the computation of surface form. This approach fares better than alternatives, including cophonologies and Stratal OT.

DOI: 10.21437/TAL.2016-9

Cite as

McPherson, L. (2016) Cyclic spell-out and the interaction of Seenku tonal processes. Proc. Tonal Aspects of Languages 2016, 43-47.

author={Laura McPherson},
title={Cyclic spell-out and the interaction of Seenku tonal processes},
booktitle={Tonal Aspects of Languages 2016},