Working paper Open Access
Lavoie, Lisa M.
Yindjibarndi, a Ngarluma language spoken in northwestern Australia, displays an intriguing pattern of stress in which all long vowels may be pronounced as a sequence of two short vowels. Previous analyses (Wordick 1982, Kager 1993) have treated this as vowel breaking, but I show that the language's morphology, historical and synchronic phonology, and metrical structure support an analysis in which identical adjacent short vowels coalesce into a single long vowel, but only where they can serve as the head of a foot.
I construct an Optimality Theoretic account of these facts, drawing on numerous well-established constraint types including correspondence constraints (McCarthy & Prince 1995), positional faithfulness constraints (Beckman 1997), prosodic constraints (McCarthy & Prince 1993), and a version of the Weight to Stress Principle (Prince 1990). Additionally, I motivate a sociolinguistic constraint, *RUDE, which forces consonant lenition.
In addition to accounting for the interactions of consonant loss, vowel length, and metrical structure without appealing to levels or rules that look ahead, Optimality Theory offers a vocabulary for the interaction of sociolinguistic and phonological constraints.