Issues in the Phonology of Tiberian Hebrew

M. Rappaport, 1984

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This thesis studies some central problems in the phonological analysis of Tiberian Hebrew (TH).  Chapter 2 contains a detailed account of the accentual system of the language and an analysis of those aspects of the segmental phonology which interact with the accentual system.  The account is set within a framework, the principles of which are formalized and justified in Chapter 1.  I argue that the assignment of stress involves rules of tree construction and the interpretation of these trees in a metrical grid by rule.  The theory of stress assignment adopted allows for a greatly simplified account of TH stress in which there is only one set of stress trees instead of the three postulated in previous metrical accounts.  It is suggested that there are two different binary alternations in the language " stress and reduction " which are not perfectly aligned.  The rules of vowel reduction and stress assignment are both taken to involve the construction of metrical trees with each set of trees interpreted by a different rule.  The stress trees are interpreted by rules of grid construction and the reduction trees are interpreted by a segmental rule which only directly affects the process of grid construction.  The ultra-short vowels of the traditional literature are identified as those vowels with no grid representation.  These vowels are ignored by the rhythmic rules of the language which are formulated as operations on the grid.  I argue that a theory using only a metrical grid with no recourse to metrical trees has difficulty dealing with certain stress shift phenomena which are at the heart of the TH accentual system and are dealt with naturally in the framework adopted here.

Chapter 3 presents a solution to a classical problem in the morphological analysis of the TH verbal system.  It is shown that although triconsonantal roots may be associated with one of the three prosodic templates, at the deepest level of analysis there are only two such templates available to the morphology and that one of the templates is derived from another by rule.  The solution makes crucial use of an autosegmental representation of morphemes and involves the postulation of two morphological strata in the TH lexicon.

Thesis supervisor:         Morris Halle

Title:                             Institute Professor

Table of Contents

Chapter 1         Introduction                                                                                          9

            1.1       Metrical Phonology                                                                               9

                        1.1.1    The present theory                                                                    11

                        1.1.2    Previous metrical theories                                                          43

            1.2       Lexical phonology                                                                                 68

            1.3       Autosegmental phonology and morphology                                            73

Notes to Chapter 1                                                                                                       86

Chapter 2         The accentual structure of Tiberian Hebrew                                           87

            2.1       Preliminaries                                                                                         87

                        2.1.1    Three degrees of length in vowels                                              88

                        2.1.2    Main stress, vowel reduction and their interaction                      94

                        2.1.3    Other ultra-short vowels                                                           101

            2.2       Previous metrical accounts                                                                    105

                        2.2.1    The interaction between MS and VR                                         105

                        2.2.2    Secondary stress                                                                      112

                        2.2.3    The rhythm rule                                                             122

                        2.2.4    Hateph vowels                                                                          126

            2.3       Analysis I: stress and stress related phenomena                          130

                        2.3.1    Main stress                                                                               130

                        2.3.2    Vowel reduction                                                                       134

                        2.3.3    Secondary stress and grid construction                          143

                        2.3.4    Main stress and secondary stress revisited                                 152

            2.4       Two attempts at a grid-only analysis                                                      164

                        2.4.1    The first attempt                                                                        164

                        2.4.2    The second attempt                                                                  171

            2.5       Analysis II: Hateph vowels                                                                    178

                        2.5.1    Introduction                                                                              178

                        2.5.2    Vowel quality                                                                           186

                        2.5.3    The accentual properties of words with Hateph vowels  202

Notes to Chapter 2                                                                                                       210

Chapter 3         Triconsonantal stem shapes                                                                   212

            3.1       The problem                                                                                         213

            3.2       An attempt at a segmental solution                                                         217

            3.3       Morphological strata                                                                             234

                        3.3.1    Spirantization                                                                            234

                        3.3.2    Echo                                                                                        238

                        3.3.3    Pretonic lengthening and the word level                         247

Notes to Chapter 3                                                                                                       253