Tone lowering in Copala Triqui
I am currently looking at tone lowering in Copala Triqui (Otomanguean, Mexico). The Triqui languages have complex tone systems (Copala Triqui has 8 contrastive tones), and these tones have both lexical and grammatical functions. In Copala, tone lowering occurs on certain constituents in many contexts. I believe it is more reliant on syntactic context than phonological environment, similar to tonosyntax in Dogon languages (see McPherson 2014). Specifically, I focus on the difference in tone lowering based on alienability in possession, and nominal compounds.
In a recent paper with Lee Bickmore, I present an analysis of the tone lowering paradigm that replaces previous accounts of lexical allomorphy. We propose that lexical items have a single underlying representation, and there are two cophonologies that create the upper and lower register forms we see in the surface representation.
My current work on tone lowering includes a wug study of nonce forms to determine how productive the tone lowering process is.
Verb reduplication in Brazilian Portuguese
I analyze a process of nominalization through total reduplication in Brazilian Portuguese. In past work, I found that there was a difference in the size and shape of reduplicated verbs compared to all verbs. While trisyllabic verbs are most frequent overall, reduplicated verbs are primarily disyllabic. Furthermore, vowel-initial forms are only found in trisyllabic reduplicants and consonant-initial forms were only found in monosyllables and disyllables. I accounted for these differences with the Null Parse theory (McCarthy & Wolf, 2009), which attributes the absence of predicted forms to a phonetically null candidate. I used the MaxEnt Grammar Tool (Hayes & Wilson, 2006) to calculate the probability of a phonetically realized output.
In a continuation of this project, Gean Damulakis (Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro) and I compare acceptability judgments from native speakers to my initial findings based on a corpus through a nonce study.
Depressor consonants in Malawian CiTonga
I am working with Lee Bickmore (University at Albany) and Winfred Mkochi (University of Malawi) on the phonological and phonetic effects of depressor consonants in Malawian CiTonga. We find that certain consonants (aspirates and voiced obstruents) are blockers of High Tone Doubling. However, phonetic depression of pitch does not neatly divide into binary groups. Namely, aspirates are depressors (a fact that does not hold across related Bantu languages, where aspirates actually raise pitch). Furthermore, while the presence of a glide does not affect the blocking effect of aspirates and voiced obstruents, it does affect the depressing effect and we see that the presence of a glide does not cause depression, suggesting that depression effects are restricted to a local right edge.