2020 Winner: Properties of Match and Align in Kinyambo

Project Information
Properties of Match and Align in Kinyambo
Linguistics Independent Study (LING 199 Tutorial)
The way that a sentence is pronounced (also called its prosody) is related to the grammatical structure of that sentence in complex ways. The following classic example from Nespor and Vogel (1982) demonstrates this: the sentence "I sent the Chinese dishes" can have two different meanings depending on the pronunciation. If emphasis is placed on the first syllable of "Chinese", the sentence indicates that the speaker sent dishes made in a Chinese style to some unspecified recipient. If, however, emphasis is placed on the second syllable of "Chinese", the speaker sent dishes of an unspecified style to the people of China. In this way the pronunciation of "Chinese" is dependent on whether it is more closely related to the noun "dishes" or the verb "sent".
Linguists hypothesize that the rules on how sentences can be pronounced (prosodic rules) refer to groupings of words, but these prosodic groupings do not always correspond to the groupings found in the grammatical structure of a sentence. Since grammatical structure affects pronunciation, as demonstrated above, groupings used to determine prosody are said to be imperfectly mapped from the grammatical structure. The precise definition of this mapping process constitutes a theory of the complex relationship between grammatical structure and pronunciation, and makes testable predictions about how certain types of sentences can be pronounced.
This paper compares the predictions made by two theories of the mapping process. The first definition, called Alignment Theory (Selkirk 1986, Chen 1987), posits that left edges and right edges of grammatical groupings are mapped separately to the edges of groupings used for pronunciation. The second definition, called Match Theory (Selkirk 2011), posits that, instead of left and right edges, whole groups are mapped, in effect mapping left and right edges simultaneously. I compare Alignment and Match Theories at two levels: at the first level, this paper explores why Match Theory but not Align Theory successfully predicts the prosodic groupings in the Bantu language Kinyambo, which is spoken in Tanzania (see Bellik and Kalivoda 2016). Second, since the mechanisms of prosody are believed to be components of Universal Grammar (see Prince and Smolensky 1993/2004), this paper compares what kinds of languages other than Kinyambo each theory predicts to be possible.
This paper also explores another dimension of comparison: whether prosodic groupings of words can contain other smaller groupings; in other words, whether groupings can be recursive. I find that both theories of mapping make very different predictions about Kinyambo and Universal Grammar depending on whether groupings are allowed to be recursive. In particular, even though there are many more recursive prosodic groupings than non-recursive groupings that are mathematically possible, both theories of the mapping process predict that a smaller number of groupings are actually possible in the world's languages if groupings are allowed to be recursive.

Works Cited:
Bellik, Jennifer, and Nick Kalivoda. 2016. Adjunction and branchingness effects in syntax-prosody mapping. Proceedings of the 2015 annual meeting on phonology.
Chen, Matthiew. 1987. The syntax of Xiamen tone sandhi. Phonology yearbook, 4, pp. 109-149.
Prince, Alan, and Paul Smolensky. 1993/2004. Optimality Theory: constraint interaction in Generative Grammar.
Nespor, Marina and Irene Vogel. 1982. Prosodic Domains of Extensional Sandhi Rules. In van der Hulst and Smith (eds.) The Structure of Phonological Representations
Selkirk, Elisabeth. 1986. On derived domains in sentence phonology. Phonology yearbook 3, pp. 371-405.
Selkirk, Elisabeth. 2011. The syntax–phonology interface. In JA Goldsmith, J Riggle and ACL Yu (eds) The handbook of phonological theory, pp. 435–84.
  • Max Mason Tarlov (Kresge)