DescriptionPublished as Coyote Papers: Working Papers in Linguistics from A-Z, Studies on Arabic, Basque, English, Japanese, Navajo and Papago
AbstractThis paper challenges the notion that the rhyme (or "rime") is an obligatory constituent in a theory of syllable -structure.' According to this theory, the syllable is divided into an onset (the syllable - initial consonant or consonants), a peak (the peak of sonority in a syllable), and a coda (the syllable -final consonant or consonants). The peak and the coda are analyzed as forming a unique constituent, the rhyme. Here, however, I will argue against the rhyme as a universal syllable -constituent, and I will propose that, in universal grammar, the syllable has the following "flat" structure. The arguments previously adduced for the constituency of the rhyme seek to demonstrate that peak and coda have a privileged status; there are dependencies (e.g. cooccurrence restrictions) between them, as well as certain (language specific) rule-environmental conditions where both are mentioned. These arguments take such phenomena to be indicators of constituency. However, looking at a wider range of evidence (as will be done in the following sections) reveals that similar relationships hold between other parts of the syllable besides peak and coda. This would lead to a situation of "double-motherhood" where onset and peak, as well as onset and coda, comprise a constituent, since there can also be similar relationships between them. The implausibility of this structure is a serious flaw in the arguments that the peak and the coda together form a constituent, but avoiding it entails rejecting the claim that dependencies and environmental mentionings indicate constituency. But this, in turn, further entails that peak and coda do not have a privileged status as a constituent. In fact, rejecting that claim eliminates all the evidence heretofore adduced in support of the rhyme. Now, the level at which both Selkirk (1978) and Halle & Vergnaud (1980) argue for the obligatoriness of the rhyme is that it is a universal in the strong sense: it is a constituent in all languages. Selkirk argues for its universality by appealing to the existence of phonotactic constraints between peak and coda. This argument for the rhyme as a universal makes an implicit prediction that can be shown to be false (namely, that no phonotactic constraints occur between onset and peak or coda.). Halle & Vergnaud's argument for the rhyme can likewise be invalidated. They argue that all languages have a syllable - constituent, and that the rhyme is a constituent within the syllable. Their justification for the rhyme's universality is that: "... in all languages known to us [them], stress assignment rules are sensitive to the structure of the syllable rime, but disregard completely the character of the onset" (1980:93). Thus, they essentially claim that the rhyme is an obligatory universal. I will show, however, that their argument for the rhyme is likewise invalid, because of the nature of additional evidence that they did not consider. Although the arguments for the constituency of the rhyme as a universal in the strong sense fail, one still can make a weaker claim about the universality of the rhyme: that it is not an obligatory constituent but an available one, that a language can "choose" to use. I will look at some of the evidence from the recent literature that can be construed as supporting the constituency of the rhyme in the weak sense, and I will show that this evidence for the rhyme is not convincing. If the rhyme, then, is an available universal, the case for it still has to be made. After showing the weaknesses of the various arguments for the rhyme (and for non - terminal subconstituents of the syllable in general) I will present the evidence for my claim that the syllable is flat - that no hierarchical relationships exist between onset, peak, and coda.