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Metrical Structure and Stress  

Matthew K. Gordon

Metrical structure refers to the phonological representations capturing the prominence relationships between syllables, usually manifested phonetically as differences in levels of stress. There is considerable diversity in the range of stress systems found cross-linguistically, although attested patterns represent a small subset of those that are logically possible. Stress systems may be broadly divided into two groups, based on whether they are sensitive to the internal structure, or weight, of syllables or not, with further subdivisions based on the number of stresses per word and the location of those stresses. An ongoing debate in metrical stress theory concerns the role of constituency in characterizing stress patterns. Certain approaches capture stress directly in terms of a metrical grid in which more prominent syllables are associated with a greater number of grid marks than less prominent syllables. Others assume the foot as a constituent, where theories differ in the inventory of feet they assume. Support for foot-based theories of stress comes from segmental alternations that are explicable with reference to the foot but do not readily emerge in an apodal framework. Computational tools, increasingly, are being incorporated in the evaluation of phonological theories, including metrical stress theories. Computer-generated factorial typologies provide a rigorous means for determining the fit between the empirical coverage afforded by metrical theories and the typology of attested stress systems. Computational simulations also enable assessment of the learnability of metrical representations within different theories.


Morphology and Metrical Structure  

Birgit Alber and Sabine Arndt-Lappe

Work on the relationship between morphology and metrical structure has mainly addressed three questions: 1. How does morphological constituent structure map onto prosodic constituent structure, i.e., the structure that is responsible for metrical organization? 2. What are the reflexes of morphological relations between complex words and their bases in metrical structure? 3. How variable or categorical are metrical alternations? The focus in the work specified in question 1 has been on establishing prosodic constituency with supported evidence from morphological constituency. Pertinent prosodic constituents are the prosodic (or phonological) word, the metrical foot, the syllable, and the mora (Selkirk, 1980). For example, the phonological behavior of certain affixes has been used to argue that they are word-internal prosodic words, which thus means that prosodic words may be recursive structures (e.g., Aronoff & Sridhar, 1987). Similarly, the shape of truncated words has been used as evidence for the shape of the metrical foot (cf., e.g., Alber & Arndt-Lappe, 2012). Question 2 considers morphologically conditioned metrical alternations. Stress alternations have received particular attention. Affixation processes differ in whether or not they exhibit stress alternations. Affixes that trigger stress alternations are commonly referred to as 'stress-shifting' affixes, those that do not are referred to as 'stress-preserving' affixes. The fact that morphological categories differ in their stress behavior has figured prominently in theoretical debates about the phonology-morphology interface, in particular between accounts that assume a stratal architecture with interleaving phonology-morphology modules (such as lexical phonology, esp. Kiparsky, 1982, 1985) and those that assume that morphological categories come with their own phonologies (e.g., Inkelas, Orgun, & Zoll, 1997; Inkelas & Zoll, 2007; Orgun, 1996). Question 3 looks at metrical variation and its relation to the processing of morphologically complex words. There is a growing body of recent empirical work showing that some metrical alternations seem variable (e.g., Collie, 2008; Dabouis, 2019). This means that different stress patterns occur within a single morphological category. Theoretical explanations of the phenomenon vary depending on the framework adopted. However, what unites pertinent research seems to be that the variation is codetermined by measures that are usually associated with lexical storage. These are semantic transparency, productivity, and measures of lexical frequency.