AuthorFountain, Amy Velita, 1963-
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractNavajo is a Southern Athapaskan language spoken by approximately 160,000 people in Arizona and New Mexico. This dissertation examines the syllable structure alternations in the prefixes of the Navajo verb. Specifically, the distribution of open and closed syllables in the verbal prefixes are at issue. This distribution is seen to follow from the interaction of constraints on phonological well-formedness including Markedness, Faithfulness and Alignment constraints, under Optimality Theory. The dissertation makes the following empirical and theoretical points. Empirically, the analysis is based on a description of the surface forms of the Navajo verb, without recourse to diachronic or comparative data. In this respect, the analysis is in line with the kind of reasoning that would have to be undertaken by the language-learner, and which must form some part of the phonological knowledge of native speakers of this language. Furthermore, the analysis is undertaken without reference to the specialized terminology which permeates linguistic analyses of Navajo in particular, and of the language family in general. Thus the description and analysis of the data are presented in such a way that a non-specialist in the language family might understand the data and analysis. Theoretically the analysis shows the utility of Optimality Theory in dealing with the complex interactions between morphology and phonology that characterize this language. It is demonstrated that the interaction of cross-linguistically motivated constraints on well-formedness results in the attested surface patterns. It is further argued that this analysis fills out a typological prediction of Optimality Theory by attesting one of the possible rankings of Markedness, Faithfulness and Alignment constraints. The basics of Navajo syllable structure, and of Optimality Theory are presented first, followed by a discussion of the fundamental morphological and phonological properties of the system. A set of Navajo verbal paradigms is then analyzed and input forms of the morphemes which participate in syllable structure alternations are derived. The Optimality Theoretic analysis is presented, and the dissertation concludes with a discussion of the issues raised, and of a set of alternative analyses of the same data.
Degree ProgramGraduate College