AG 1: Strong versus weak prosodic positions: possible variation and relevance for grammar

Session organizers

Renate Raffelsiefen (IDS Mannheim/FU Berlin) & Marzena Żygis (ZAS Berlin/HU Berlin)


Both phoneticians and phonologists have found reason to distinguish "strong" and "weak" positions referring to constituents of the prosodic hierarchy, including higher constituents, whose boundaries align with morphosyntactic boundaries, as well as lower constituents such as foot and syllable. Strength is commonly associated with initial positions and with stress whereas weakness is associated with non-prominent positions. Reference to strong versus weak positions has been invoked in articulatory phonetics (target overshoot, i.e. enhancement of the duration and/or magnitude of articulatory gestures, in strong positions versus target undershoot in weak position) as well as auditory phonetics (lower rate of misperception in strong positions versus higher rate in weak position). It has also been invoked to account for potential contrast, more distinctiveness being associated with strong positions (cf. the notions of "positional faithfulness" and "positional markedness" in Optimality Theory). Although reference to "strong" versus "weak" positions appears to be universally grounded in prominence and although it seems to be taken for granted that positions considered strong for the purpose of one area of phonetics or phonology implies strength for the purpose of others there is evidence for disparity. For instance, the word-initial position is associated with strong potential contrast by Beckman (1998), whereas Trubezkoy links both margin positions of words to low contrastiveness (e.g. neutralization of the voicing contrast for all consonants in word-initial position in Erza-Mordwin, Trubetzkoy 1958: 212ff). Similarly, the word-initial position is associated with target overshoot (e.g. aspiration of voiceless plosives) in English or German, but also exhibits fewer contrasts in fricatives than for instance the foot-internal position. The latter nonetheless exhibits target undershoot (flapping in American English). In view of these discrepancies, the workshop will provide a forum for phonologists and phoneticians to discuss associations between segmental phenomena and prosodic positions from a cross-linguistic point of view, focusing on questions like:

  • Which prosodic positions need to be distinguished in terms of weakness versus strength to account for what sort of phenomenon (enhancement of articulatory gestures, perceptual discriminability, potential contrast).
  • To what extent do these phenomena overlap?
  • Is there evidence that weak versus strong positions could be language-specific?
  • What are the implications for the modeling of grammar, e.g. is there a need to distinguish a phonemic level (contrast) from phonetics, the latter modeled as implementation?


  14:00 Rachel Walker (U of Southern California)  
    The interplay of positional prominence and consonant blocking in vowel harmony  
  15:00 Aaron Kaplan (U of Utah)  
    Long-distance licensing in Harmonic Grammar  
  15:30 Hani Dhania Samion & Andrew Nevins (U College London)  
    Onset clusters vs. monosyllabicity in Malay nasal fusion contexts  
  16:00 Break  
  16:30 Yanyan Sui (Nankai U)  
    The metrical foot in Standard Chinese  
  17:00 Violeta Martínez-Paricio (Norwegian U of Science and Technology) & René Kager (U Utrecht)  
    Prominence relations in a metrical framework with internally layered feet  
  17:30 Peter Staroverov (U Leipzig)  
    Edge-only glide insertion  
  18:00 Geoffrey Schwartz (Adam Mickiewicz U)  
    Predicting boundaries in Polish and English - a parametric view of strong vs. weak prosodic positions  
  9:00 Avivit Ben-David (Hadassah Academic College) & Outi Bat-El (Tel-Aviv U)  
    Strong vs. strong, but which is stronger? Stressed and final syllables in language acquisition  
  9:30 Conxita Lleó (U Hamburg)  
    Phonological constituency and prosodic prominence as decisive factors  
  10:00 Birgit Alber (U of Verona), Alessandro Vietti (U of Bolzano) & Barbara Vogt (U of Trieste)  
    Laryngeal neutralization in the first syllable - the case of Tyrolean  
  10:30 Renate Raffelsiefen & Fabian Brackhane (IDS Mannheim)  
    Constraints on word edges in German  
  11:00 Break  
  11:30 Yi Xu (U College London)  
    Prosodic strength: Articulatory-functional mechanisms versus epiphenomena  
  12:30 Kristjan Árnason (U of Iceland)  
    Two types of prominence: Faroese syllable types and rhythm  
  12:00 Edoardo Cavirani (Meertens Institut)  
    Modeling phonologization in Lunigiana dialects  
  12:30 Karolina Broś (U of Warsaw)  
    The prosodic word - weak or strong? Evidence from Spanish  
  13:00 Ander Egurtzegi (U of the Basque Country; UPV/EHU)  
    The role of prosodic prominence in Basque aspirate distribution  
  13:30 Zofia Malisz (U Bielefeld), Petra Wagner (U Bielefeld) & Marzena Żygis (ZAS Berlin)  
    Acoustic correlates of prosodic structure in Polish  

Deviation from the original schedule

The talk by Kabak & Revithiadou was cancelled.