UCL Working Papers in Linguistics 9 (1997)

Monovalency and the status of RTR


Cases of ATR harmony are numerous and widely documented in the literature, whereas languages in which RTR is harmonically active (e.g. Wolof) have received a good deal less attention. A description based on the bivalent feature [+/-ATR] is capable of representing both harmony types, but fails to encode naturally the clear difference in typological markedness separating the two. On the other hand, an Element Theory approach -- employing melodic headship as the basis of tongue root distinctions -- is unable to provide an adequate account of RTR harmony without compromising privativeness. In response, I propose a tier geometry analysis (Backley 1995) which succeeds in capturing the alternation facts of both ATR and RTR harmony systems, together with the markedness characteristics of each.

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