Natural Language & Linguistic Theory

, Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 545–582

Distinguishing total and partial identity: Evidence from Chol

Original Paper


This paper argues that long-distance assimilations between consonants come in two varieties: Total identity, which arises via a non-local relation between the interacting segments; and partial identity, which results from local articulatory spreading through intervening segments (Flemming 1995; Gafos 1999). Our proposal differs from previous analyses (Hansson 2001; Rose and Walker 2004) in that only total identity is a non-local phenomenon. While non-adjacent consonants may interact via a relation we call linking, the only requirement which may be placed on linked consonants is total identity. All single feature identities are the result of local spreading. The interaction of a total identity requirement on ejectives and stridents with anteriority harmony in Chol (Mayan) highlights the distinction between these two types of long-distance phenomena. We show that theories that allow non-local, single-feature agreement make undesirable predictions, and that the more restrictive typology predicted by our framework is supported by the vast majority of long-distance assimilation cases.


Mayan Consonant harmony Co-occurrence restrictions Long-distance agreement 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Linguistics and PhilosophyCambridgeUSA

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