Natural Language & Linguistic Theory

, Volume 33, Issue 4, pp 1169–1208 | Cite as

Recursion in prosodic phrasing: evidence from Connemara Irish

  • Emily Elfner


One function of prosodic phrasing is its role in aiding in the recoverability of syntactic structure. In recent years, a growing body of work suggests it is possible to find concrete phonetic and phonological evidence that recursion in syntactic structure is preserved in the prosodic organization of utterances (Ladd 1986, 1988; Kubozono 1989, 1992; Féry and Truckenbrodt 2005; Wagner 2005, 2010; Selkirk 2009, 2011; Ito and Mester 2013; Myrberg 2013). This paper argues that the distribution of phrase-level phrase accents in Connemara Irish provides a new type of evidence in favour of this hypothesis: that, under ideal conditions, syntactic constituents are mapped onto prosodic constituents in a one-to-one fashion, such that information about the nested relationships between syntactic constituents is preserved through the recursion of prosodic domains. Through an empirical investigation of both clausal and nominal constructions, I argue that the distribution of phrasal phrase accents in Connemara Irish can be used as a means of identifying recursive bracketing in prosodic structure.


Syntax-phonology interface Prosody Recursion Irish 



Above all, I would like to like to thank the Irish speakers who contributed to this project, Norita Ní Chartúir, Fiona Ní Fhlaithearta, Breda Ní Mhaoláin, Áine Ní Neachtain, Máire Uí Fhlatharta, Baba Uí Loingsigh, and especially Michael Newell and Yvonne Ní Fhlatharta, who met with me on several occasions. I am also indebted to Máire Ní Chiosáin and to the staff at the Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge for help with recruiting speakers and setting up recording sessions. Many thanks are due to Jim McCloskey, Lisa Selkirk and Michael Wagner for providing feedback and comments on this paper in its various stages, as well as to the editor, Marcel den Dikken, and three anonymous reviewers for NLLT whose comments tightened and improved the paper immensely. Additionally, I am grateful for discussions with Ryan Bennett, Amelie Dorn, Gorka Elordieta, Mark Feinstein, John Kingston, Seunghun Lee, John McCarthy, Maria O’Reilly and many other colleagues and audience members at UMass Amherst, McGill, UC Santa Cruz, the University of Calgary, ZAS Berlin, and Trinity College Dublin. Finally, I would like to acknowledge financial support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (Doctoral Fellowship 752-2006-1349 and Postdoctoral Fellowship 756-2011-0285), the National Science Foundation (NSF grant BCS-1147083 to Elisabeth Selkirk), and from the University of Massachusetts Amherst Linguistics Department.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.First Nations Languages ProgramUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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