Diminutive consonant harmony in several dialects of Cree

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Melnychuk, Teresa D.
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In Cree, the palatalization of coronal obstruents imparts a diminutive meaning through a process referred to as sound symbolism. It has been described as an optional process (Pentland, 1974), thus accounting for the observation that not all of the coronal obstruents are subject to the sound symbolism. An acoustic examination of /s/ and /s/ attempted to discover whether there was a true phonological shift from /s/ to occurring in diminutives. A statistical procedure was used in the characterization of the fricative segments which determined that the diminutive fricative was unlike the control [s] segments measured in this study and not unlike the control [s] segments. Since the acoustic examination of /s/ and /s/ established that there was a true phonological shift from /s/ to /s/ occurring in diminutives, it was therefore plausible to look at Cree diminutive consonant symbolism as a phonological process of consonant harmony. Within the framework provided by Optimality Theory, specifically using Optimal Domains Theory as proposed by Cole and Kisseberth (1994), I will show that this phonological process is governed by the interaction of several constraints regarding the spread of features within a specified domain. The interaction of the universal constraints of Faithfulness, as well as the constraints Onset, NoCoda, and Coda-Cond serve to keep the input looking as much like the output as possible and to keep the syllable structure consistent across the language. Harmony results when the constraints for Basic Alignment (BA) and Wide-Scope Alignment (WSA) interact to extend a feature over a domain if ranked one way and suppress the spread of the sound symbolism if ranked another way. The re-ranking of these constraints will also explain the patterns where the presence of the diminutive suffix is the sole indicator the diminutive and the leftward harmony is not occurring. It was also shown that a re-ranking of the constraints will result in the patterns shown in the Western Swampy and Plains Cree dialects.