Loanwords, prominence and the basis for Mongolian vowel harmony
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The standard analysis of Modern Mongolian vowel harmony is as rightward spreading of the features [pharyngeal] and [round] starting from the first syllable of the word. Because Mongolian has exclusively suffixing morphology and native non-compound roots are always internally harmonic, native data alone cannot rule out leftward spreading within roots. It has been suggested, based on data from recent Russian borrowings in the Halh dialect, that leftward spreading can occur during loan adaptation, and furthermore that stress in the source language maps to harmony triggers in Mongolian, even though stress is not distinctive in Mongolian. However, these claims have been made on the basis of relatively few lexical items, and no attempt has been made to integrate their implications into a general analysis of Mongolian VH. The current field phonology study tests the above claims using systematically collected speech production data, and comparing loans from Russian and Mandarin Chinese in the Halh, Chahar and Horchin dialects. Results support neither the prediction of leftward assimilation from stressed syllables, nor the mapping of stress to harmony triggers. Instead, disharmony is usually preserved in loans, and reflexes of stressed syllables do not always trigger harmony. The prevalence of disharmonic roots does call for modifications to the standard analysis of Mongolian VH. Results also suggest new directions for research on the phonetic basis for harmony.
- Linguistics