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DEIRDRE WINSTON WHEELER, University of Massachusetts Amherst


The aim of this thesis is to present an alternative theory of phonology. The proposed theory is modelled after Montague's theory of syntax and semantics. The theory differs from standard generative theories of phonology in that it is non-transformational in character. The phonological component of a language consists of two types of rules: (i) rules of the phonological syntax and (ii) rules of phonetic interpretation. The phonological syntax consists of a set of phonotactic rules which are similar in form to Montague's rules of functional application. The phonemes of a language constitute the set of basic expressions for the phonological syntax. Phonological constituents are associated with category labels, and the phonotactic rules specify how constituents of the appropriate categories may be combined to form well-formed phonological strings. The rules of phonetic interpretation apply in conjunction with the phonotactic rules in the same way that Montague's rules of semantic interpretation apply in conjuction with his syntactic rules. The rules of phonetic interpretation apply as phonemes (or strings of phonemes) are combined to form larger expressions. These rules specify how the phonetic representation of a phonemic string is to be derived from the phonetic representations of the combined constituents. Some of the arguments which have been presented in the literature regarding the important role which the suprasegmental organization of phonological strings plays in phonological descriptions are discussed. The organization of segments into syllables and larger constituents is important for describing segmental alternations as well as stress and relative prominence. A categorial theory of phonology is introduced in which the hierarchical organization of strings into suprasegmental constituents follows from the compositional nature of the theory. The hierarchical structures (analysis trees) which are "associated" with phonemic strings represent the way in which constituents were combined to derive the string. There are no syllabification rules or metrical structure rules which apply to segmental strings. The fact that segmental rules apparently apply within restricted domains is seen as a consequence of the fact that the rules of phonetic interpretation apply in conjunction with the rules of the phonological syntax. Throughout the dissertation, the proposed theory is compared to alternative theories which have attempted to constrain standard generative phonolgy. It is shown that the proposed theory is inherently very restrictive and that constraints on the class of possible rules as well as the interaction of rules follow from fundamental properties of the theory. There is a discussion of markedness, morphophonemic alternations and the nature of lexical representations in Categorial phonology. It is shown that the effects of the Markedness Constraint which was proposed by Houlihan and Iverson (1979) follow from basic properties of the proposed theory. It is not necessary to place any additional constraints on the proposed theory since it predicts that certain classes of phonological rules will not be found in natural languages. Stress and segmental alternations in English are discussed in detail. The analyses further illustrate how restrictive the proposed theory is. It is shown that the categorial theory, though more constrained than standard generative phonology, is still capable of capturing significant generalizations and that in fact there are independent reasons for preferring the proposed analyses. In the conclusion, there is a summary of the overall structure of the proposed theory and a discussion of some of the predictions made by the theory. There is also a brief discussion of the interaction of the syntactic and phonological components at the phrase level.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

WHEELER, DEIRDRE WINSTON, "ASPECTS OF A CATEGORIAL THEORY OF PHONOLOGY" (1981). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI8110390.