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A Prosodic Theory of Nonconcatenative Morphology

This approach to generative phonology was
proposed by John Gold Smith in 1976. This theory
was based on earlier ideas from several linguists:

Bernard Bloch (1948)

J. R. Firth (1948)
Charles Hocket (1955)
The autosegmental framework was originally used to
describe tone in tone languages. G.N. Clements
(1976) developed the theory involving vowel
harmony and nasal harmony. Then John McCarthy
(1979) built upon this theory extensively in the
verbal derivation of Classical Arabic
Description of the framework:

Each autosegmental tier contains a linearly

ordered sequence of autosegments

Different features may be placed on separate tiers

Various tiers are organized by association lines
roottier n q l move

Skeletaltier CV CV C [naqal] hemoved

Melodytier a a [a] shortvowel

Autosegmental phonology deals with the
consequences for generative phonology of multi-
linear phonological analysis and representation

The underlying and surface forms consist of parallel

strings of segments arranged in two or more tiers
Features are distributed over the various tiers

No feature may appear on more than one tier

Some constraints:

Association lines never cross

Vowels link to vowels and consonants to
A skeletal node cant be linked to two different
segments on different tiers
Similarities with the generative phonology:

Autosegmental phonology shares the assumption

that we have an internal grammar and that
phonology is an attempt to represent these
abstract mental constructs.
Represents phonological processes in a formally
simple way

Autosegmental phonology investigates the

consequences of having more complex
structures and articulation than a linear
string of segments can address
Autosegmenal phonology goes beyond the
place and manner of articulation and focuses
on stress, tone, and vowel and nasal
The analysis of phonological phenomena uses less
features and changing rules. Instead, delete or
reorganize the various autosegments through
association lines
John McCarthy proposed an important development
by showing that the derivation of words from
consonantal roots in Arabic could be analyzed

In Arabic, words may be formed by modifying the

root itself internally and not simply by connecting
of affixes, root compounding, or conversion
How this theory works in real life:
Learning to identify the root of the Arabic word is
important. It will often help you guess the meaning
of words, thus increasing your vocabulary and

Possible semantic variation of the same root:

One root of word and many other derivations by
adding vowels, suffixes, and prefixes to the root
ktb= write
kitabun abook
kita:batun actofwriting
kutta:bun Quraanschool
Autosegmental representation for the root ktb

roottier k t b

skeletaltier cv cv c katab=hewrote

Melodytier a a a=shortvowel

Arabic Patterns and roots
Arabic Framework:
Autosegmental representation in which features
bundle for vowels and consonants were connected
to C and V nodes on different tiers
Root Tier:
its consonantal segments, the meaning of lexeme
(ktb= write;nql= move; fl= do)
Skeletal Tier:
a prosodic template associated with a particular
meaning or grammatical function.

For example:
katab = CVCVC=CaCaC is an active pattern that
means he wrote
kutiba=CVCVC=CuCiC is an active pattern that
means it was written
Melody Tier:
it involves grammatical information: tense, voice,
aspect, number, derivational functions
Arabic Verbs System:
Arabic verbs are structured around a root consisting
of consonants only.

The trilateral root is based on 15 derivational

categories called banyan

The vowel patterns bear a consistent meaning such

as CaCaC (this pattern is always for the perfective
CuCiC (this pattern is always for the perfective
Derivation :
Template= CVCVC= Perfective active and passive
Perfective active = CVCVC=CaCaC
Perfective passive= CVCVC=CuCiC
roottier n q l meaningoflexeme
(consonantal) move

Skeletaltier CV CV C gramticalfunction
Melodytier a a gramticalinformation
(vocalic) pasttense
roottier q l move

Skeletaltier CV CV C passivepattern

Melodytier u i passivevoice
(vocalic) itwasmoved
roottier f l do

Skeletaltier CV CV C activepattern

Melodytier a a pasttense
(Vocalic) did
roottier f l do

Skeletaltier CV CV C passivepattern

Melodytier u i passivevoice
(Vocalic) itwasdone
What about affixes? How can we recognize them?
How can we know theyre a part of the root or not?
Morpheme tier:
McCarthy added an additional morpheme tier=
node. Lexical representation of each morpheme in a
word takes a separate tier
The suffixes and prefixes take also nodes. In this
way the root tier will provide all the information
need to distinguish consonants from one another by
point and manner of articulation like the following:

roottier k t b

skeletaltier cv cv c katab=hewrote

Melodytier a a a=shortvowel


Vocalicmelodytier u i

Skeletaltier C V C V C

Roottier n q l


Vocalicmelodytier a u n

Skeletaltier C V C C V C

Roottier n q l

a linear analysis for the Arabic examples:
A linear analysis is cumbersome and inelegant!

Roottier b nt

Skeletaltier CVCVC

Melodytier i i
binti:=mygirl i:=longvowel(my)


Melodytier i i

Skeletaltier CVC

Roottier b nt


Roottier r dl

Skeletaltier CVCVC

Melodytier i i
ridli:=myleg i:=longvowel(my)


Melodytier i i

Skeletaltier CVCVC

Roottier r dl


Framework advantages include tone, vowel

harmony, gemination, and compensatory lengthening

Based on the data we analyzed, this framework at

this time is not sufficient to supplant other
phonological theories, but provides a complementary
analytical method to deal with specific phonological
Obligatory Contour Principle:
Complication for this theory

The geminate roots in Arabic dont provide a

satisfactory explanation for an empty slot
Arabic allows roots of two, three and four consonants
to be subject to the Obligatory Contour Principle
This OCP states that identical H and L tones cant be
adjacent to each other
In 1986, McCarthy extended the OCP to all
autosegmental melodies including consonantal
and vocalic segments

For biconsonantal root:

CV template must be filled by adding a geminate
consonant for the root. For example, d is called a
geminate root , so it will be dd
For quadrilateral root, one to one association is
possible. The causative past tense template is
CVCCVCV. The word ll means penetrate
d d


l l