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Tonosyntax and reference restriction in Dogon NPs

From: Language
Volume 89, Number 2, June 2013
pp. 265-296 | 10.1353/lan.2013.0020



Lexical tone melodies of words and word strings in Dogon languages are overridden by syntactically conditioned word-level or broader tone overlays. In Ben Tey and other Dogon languages, certain NP-internal elements—possessors, adjectives, relative clauses, demonstratives—are controllers, imposing overlays such as {L} and {HL} on adjacent words or word strings (the targets). Other elements (nonsingular quantifiers, discourse-functional morphemes) do not control overlays. The semantic generalization is that reference restrictors are controllers, while non-reference restrictors are not. Tonosyntactic processes have access to input stem-class categories and semantic/pragmatic groupings thereof, input phonological features (tone of the adjacent edge of the controllers), prosodic weight of the target, and, with possible minor exceptions, linear adjacency. Such operations can only be accounted for in a model of grammar with an enriched syntax-phonology interface.

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