The phonology and grammar of Galo “words”
A case study in benign disunity
“Words” may be independently defined and identified in Galo (Tibeto-Burman > Western Tani) in terms of relatively consistent and functionally well-motivated sets of phonological and grammatical criteria. However, these criteria very often fail to converge upon identification of the same formal unit; instead, we frequently find phonological “words” which consist of two grammatical “words”, and grammatical “words” which consist of two phonological “words”, etc. The resulting “mismatch” between “phonological words” and “grammatical words” in Galo is argued to be theoretically non-trivial, in that its existence is capable of explaining a variety of otherwise seemingly disparate facts in the synchronic and diachronic organization of Galo grammar. The facts from Galo thus support a view of language in which “word” is independently defined in phonological and grammatical terms, and in which neither type of “word” necessarily corresponds to (or is projected by) the other. Although there might be said to exist a very generalized functional pressure towards “unification” of “phonological words” and “grammatical words”, such a pressure would not be expressible as a formal constraint on language grammar.
Keywords: word, grammatical word, syntax/prosody interface, phonological word, Tani languages, Tibeto-Burman languages
Published online: 16 December 2009
Cited by 2 other publications
Widmer, Manuel, Mathias Jenny, Wolfgang Behr & Balthasar Bickel
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