LingLang Lunch (11/13/2013): Kevin Ryan (Harvard University)

Prosodic weight beyond the rime

A number of phonological systems invoke weight in some form, including stress placement, poetic meter, compensatory lengthening, end-weight effects in word order, text-setting lyrics to music, and so forth. This talk focuses on two aspects of weight largely neglected in the modeling literature, namely, (1) how exactly phonological weight is computed for prosodic domains above the syllable (such as words and phrases) and (2) statistical contributions of onsets to weight in the aforementioned sorts of systems. Focusing especially on word-order variation in English, I propose a theory of “generalized weight mapping” that connects syllable weight to word and phrase weight, though not through simple addition. I also argue that the domain for weight is not rime-bound, as traditionally assumed, but benchmarked by the perceptual centers of syllables, thus incorporating (universally) certain onset effects into the weight percept.