A Sketch of Lexical Phonology

Term Paper (Advanced seminar) 2009 12 Pages

English Language and Literature Studies - Linguistics


Table Of Content

1 Introduction

2 General Features of Lexical Phonology

3 Interaction of Morphology and Phonology
3.1 Morphology
3.2 Phonology

4 Lexical and Postlexical Phonology

5 Controversies

6 Summary

1 Introduction

Lexical Phonology (LP) is one of the numerous phonological approaches, which has been established after the publication of Chomsky’s and Halle’s (1968) phonological theory the Sound Pattern of English (SPE). The model of Lexical Phonology, which is based on Paul Kiparsky (1982) as well as Halle and Mohanan (1985), is especially characterized by the connection of phonology, morphology, and the lexicon as well as their influence on each other. It contradicts many of SPE’s main theses and thoughts and became one of the leading phonological theories in the 1980s.

This essay provides a sketch of LP and its constraints and conventions. This model is illustrated by using some examples of the various components of this approach. Furthermore, the differences between LP and Postlexical Phonology are pointed out. After this section, the controversies of this theory are discussed.

2 General Features of Lexical Phonology

The approach of Lexical Phonology (LP) was developed by Paul Kiparsky and K.P. Mohanan in the early 1980s, according to Kaisse et al. (1985: 1), as a “[…] response to so many of the major trends in phonology and morphology.” Thus, the general idea is to examine the complex relations between the morphology of a lexeme and how phonological rules affect it. The latter phonological component is basically divided into two classes: lexical and post-lexical. The lexical class includes rules that relate only to the word, which is formed by the concatenation of morphemes. Those rules that are strictly phonetic and apply after the derivational processes only at the syntactic level are postlexical ones. They apply between words and within them irrespective of the lexical and morphological information. The difference between Lexical and Postlexical Phonology is discussed later in this essay.

As could be seen above, the different rule types are obviously working in blocks, the so called levels or strata. On the one hand, they operate during word formation and on the other hand post-syntactically. The lexical stratum is further subdivided into a various number of levels – various because Kiparsky (1982), for instance, works with two or three lexical levels while Halle and Mohanan claim a four-level model. Nevertheless, this essay will concentrate on Kiparsky’s proposals.

LP assumes that the levels are ordered subsequently in the lexicon: an underived lexical entry enters Level I, where certain morphological and phonological rules apply, which are described exemplarily below. The output of this stratum enters the next level, where different rules apply. This is a straight direction: once left a level, a lexical entry cannot enter this level again. Hence, it is impossible that Level II rules influence Level I rules. Level Ordering is, according to Spencer (1996: 275), an “important component of Kiparsky’s (1982) theory of Lexical Phonology.” After all morphological, i.e. all affixation processes, and the relevant phonological rules (e.g., stress assignment, Trisyllabic Laxening, or Degemination in English) of one level have applied, the internal brackets of the word are erased. Thus, the outcome of the respective level is available for the word formation processes and the phonological operations of the succeeding level. This essential convention of LP is called Bracket Erasure, which explains the ordering of the levels, described above. Thus, McMahon (2000: 39) points out: “[…] although word internal structure is relevant within the stratum on which it is created, it should not be accessible to rules on subsequent strata.”



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University of Wales, Bangor
lexical phonology morphology interaction general features postlexical controversies



Title: A Sketch of Lexical Phonology