Polish trapped sonorants and strict CV


Artur Kijak


This paper aims to examine the problem of representation of the so-called trapped sonorants in Polish, in a recent development of the Government Phonology paradigm (Kaye et al. 1990), strict CV model (Lowenstamm 1996, Scheer 1999).


Since Polish tolerates complex consonantal combinations, especially in initial position, it has always been a good testing ground for different theoretical frameworks (Kury³owicz 1952, Rubach & Booij 1990a, 1990b, Gussmann & Kaye 1993, Rowicka 1999, Gussmann & Cyran 1998, Cyran & Gussmann 1999). Complex initial sequences have been problematic for any theory. They either violate any version of the Sonority Sequencing Principle (SSP) or exceed the permissible limit on the number of consonants in the word-initial clusters. Additionally, this language is rare in that it abounds in instances of the trapped sonorants, e.g. drgaæ, 'vibrate', drval, 'wood-cutter', krtañ, 'larynx', brn¹æ 'plod' etc. Thus, similarly to many attempts aiming to explain Polish wild sequences, there have been many attempts to resolve the problem of Polish trapped sonorants, especially in terms of extrasyllabicity (Rubach), but also by different means (Pawelec 2001). The GP invention of empty Nuclei contributed to the understanding of the behaviour of Polish initial clusters and gave first attempts to explain their peculiarity (Gussmann & Kaye 1993, Gussmann & Cyran 1998, Cyran & Gussmann 1999). Coherent as it is, the standard Government Phonology (SGP) analysis, however, seems to overlook the puzzle of trapped sonorants altogether. Thus, although SGP resolves most of the problems connected with the syllabification of the initial sequences, the CV model, supported by the Lowenstamm's (1999) idea of the initial empty CV unit, explains the same facts in a much more satisfactory manner. The main advantage of the CV model over SGP is that the former is much more constrained which must be automatically regarded as an advantage (SGP requires quite a few mechanisms to account for Polish initial facts, namely: Magic Licensing, Proper Government, Interonset Government, Constituent Government, Interconstituent Government, and Government Licensing, while CV needs only two: Government and Licensing). Moreover, the latter model neatly explains the clusters which have been problematic for SGP. More importantly, CV recognizes the peculiarity of the trapped sonorants. Thus, following a recent interest in the attempts to explain the syllabic consonants (Harris 1994, Szigetvari 2000, Blaho 2002) I could add to this area of recent interest Polish trapped sonorants. Given that otherwise elegant and coherent CV analysis of Polish initial sequences is challenged when faced with trapped sonorants, I will attempt at resolving the problematic character of such clusters by representing them as left-branching structures, similarly to syllabic consonants (Szigetvari 2000). This solution seems promising as it explains such sequences without introducing additional machinery, hence without unnecessary burdening the theory. I will then discuss some of the consequences of representing trapped sonorants as left-branching structures.




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