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  • On the Lack of Evidence for Nonmyopic Harmony
  • Joan Mascaró

1 Introduction

Current phonological theory resorts to a large set of different, usually competing mechanisms to derive assimilatory processes (Search and Copy, Spreading, in derivational frameworks; Align, Agree, Share, and Agreement by Correspondence in Optimality Theory (OT); and others; see Nevins 2010, McCarthy 2011, Gafos and Dye 2011, Walker 2012). One important property that has been attributed to unbounded spreading is myopia (Wilson 2004, 2006, Finley 2008, Nevins 2010: chaps. 4, 6, McCarthy 2011). In a contribution to this journal, Walker (2010) focuses on a complementary issue: whether bounded harmony obeys myopia. Adopting Wilson's (2006:9) definition for unbounded spreading, the affirmative answer can be defined as in (1).

(1) All attested unbounded spreading processes obey a myopia ("no look ahead") generalization

• LR⟶ spreading from T to U is independent of whether spreading can proceed into Z [in] … T X U Z …

• ⟵RL spreading from T to U is independent of whether spreading can extend into Z [in] … Z U X T …

Walker (2010:169–170) holds the opposite view, which can be worded as in (2).

(2) There are cases of bounded nonmyopic spreading.1

Walker claims that there exist cases of harmony in which "adjacent segments undergo assimilation only when a nonlocal viable target is present" (2010:169). She states that she has detected such cases in two Italo-Romance dialects, Grado and Central Veneto, and discusses the consequences of this discovery for phonological theory—in particular, [End Page 862] the fact that such cases cannot be handled by serial OT with candidate chains (OT-CC). In a reply, Kimper (2012) shows that, contrary to Walker's claims, under a proper analysis the data can indeed be accounted for in serial OT. In the present reply, I show that Walker's account faces a more serious problem because the empirical base itself is incorrect: close scrutiny shows that in Grado metaphony is, contra Walker, descriptively myopic, and in Central Veneto the evidence available is ambiguous and fails to provide support for nonmyopia.2

Since current available evidence is in favor of myopia, examination of a new case of spreading can have one of three consequences: if it is shown to be nonmyopic, it will disprove (1) (i.e., it will show that nonmyopic spreading is also possible); if it is shown to be myopic, it will (slightly) strengthen (1); or if it manifests neither myopia nor nonmyopia, it will leave (1) unchanged.

2 Metaphony in Grado

Walker (2010) is correct in assuming a regular process of metaphonic harmony that affects paroxytones in the dialects under discussion. For Grado, the sources (in particular, Ascoli 1898, Marin 1985, 1999, and Bottin 2003) clearly indicate that a final high i triggers raising of the preceding stressed mid close vowel (/e/, /o/) (3a), but low vowels (/a/, /ɛ/, /ɔ/) are not affected (3b). The data in (3) (from Walker 2010:170–171, 2005:928) are illustrative of a process that affects most paroxytones, with some exceptions.3

(3) Grado

Since in order to assess whether a spreading process is myopic or not we need at least two targets, paroxytones like those in (3) are irrelevant. In proparoxytones, however, if spreading affects the posttonic when the tonic is affected, the behavior of the posttonic in those cases in which the tonic is not an undergoer will diagnose myopia and nonmyopia. This is shown in (4), which is also relevant for Central Veneto, discussed in section 3. Affected targets are underlined; the examples zúvin-i 'young men' and bodʒántin-i 'crabs before the last molt' are taken from (5) below. [End Page 863]

(4) Metaphonic raising in proparoxytones triggered by the suffix

Spreading is myopic if it proceeds from the trigger i to the next vowel to its left, the posttonic, both when it raises the tonic vowels (/e/, /o/, and, vacuously, /i/, /u/ (4a)) and when it cannot (i.e., when the tonic is /a/, /ɛ/, or /ɔ/ (4b)). Spreading is nonmyopic if the posttonic raises only if the tonic is affected, as in (4a´) and (4c´).

The evidence Walker (2010:171) presents for nonmyopia consists of the three cases shown in...


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