The morphology and phonology of metathesis in Amarasi
I describe and analyse data from Amarasi, a language with morphological consonant-vowel metathesis. Depending on the phonotactic structure of the stem to which it applies, metathesis is associated with a number of other phonological processes including: vowel deletion, consonant deletion and two kinds of vowel assimilation. By proposing that Amarasi has an obligatory CVCVC foot in which C-slots can be empty all these phonological processes can be derived from a single process of metathesis and one associated morphemically conditioned process. I consider analyses other than the rule-based one adopted in this paper and show that they cannot account for all the data in a consistent, plausible way.
KeywordsMetathesis Process morphology Phonology Timor
In this paper I describe and analyse the form of metathesis in Amarasi, an Austronesian language of western Timor. At its most simple, metathesis involves the reversal of the final consonant-vowel sequence of a word. One example is the word ‘seven’ which has the unmetathesised form hi Open image in new window [ˈhi Open image in new window ʊ] and the metathesised form hi Open image in new window [ˈhi.ʊ Open image in new window ]. This example shows the pattern C1V2C3V4 → C1V2V4C3, illustrated in (1) below.
Phonological process associated with metathesis in Amarasi
From the examples given in Table 1, it is clear that many of the forms before and after the arrow do not differ only in the order of the final CV sequence. For this reason, I refer to forms paradigmatically equivalent to hitu ‘seven’ as the ‘U-form’ and forms paradigmatically equivalent to hiut ‘seven’ as the ‘M-form’.1
Under a process based model of morphology and an autosegmental model of phonology, by positing an obligatory CVCVC foot in which C-slots can be empty, all the phonological processes in the formation of the M-form arise from a single rule of metathesis at the CV tier, an associated morphemically conditioned rule, and the general phonotactic constraints of Amarasi.
This analysis is superior to alternate analyses under different frameworks, such as prosodic morphology or purely concatenative morphology, neither of which can account for all the data in a consistent, typologically plausible manner.
This paper proceeds as follows. In Sect. 2 I describe the language background and the prosodic and phonotactic structures of Amarasi. Importantly, in most forms, such as hi Open image in new window [ˈhi Open image in new window ʊ] → hi Open image in new window [ˈhi.ʊ Open image in new window ] ‘seven’, M-forms differ only in the order of the final CV sequence—there is no vowel coalescence, diphthongisation, or difference in stress.
In Sect. 3 I present the data and describe the different phonological processes by which the M-form is formed in Amarasi. In Sect. 4 I propose a unified analysis under which all these processes are derived from a single morphological process of metathesis at the CV tier. In Sect. 5 I consider alternate analyses which have been proposed for typologically similar processes. I show that while such analyses can account for some of the data, they cannot account for all of the data in Amarasi.
This means that Amarasi presents a true case of morphological metathesis in which metathesis alone—without any additional phonological difference—can be the only expression of a morphosyntactic category.
There are differences in the forms and functions of metathesis between different varieties of Uab Meto, different dialects of these varieties, and even between individual villages of a single dialect. Unless stated otherwise, the data presented in this paper come from Kotos Amarasi as spoken in the present day village (desa) of Nekmese' by inhabitants of the historic hamlet (kampung) of Koro'oto.
The data in this paper were collected by the author based on a total of six months fieldwork. These data primarily consist of a dictionary of more than 2,000 unique morphemes and over two and a half hours of recorded, translated, and glossed texts.
2.1 Prosodic and phonotactic background
I describe here the phonotactic and phonological structures of Amarasi as necessary to understand and properly analyse the formation of M-forms. In Sect. 2.1.1 I show that in nearly all circumstances each segmental vowel is the peak of a unique syllable. This includes both vowel sequences in M-forms and sequences of two identical vowels.
In Sect. 2.1.2 I describe stress in Amarasi. I show that word stress is always penultimate. This fact, combined with Amarasi syllabification, means that syllable weight plays almost no role in the Amarasi phonology.
Finally, in Sect. 2.1.3 I show that Amarasi has a highly constrained word structure built around the disyllabic foot. This sets the scene for my analysis in Sect. 6 in which I propose that the foot is obligatorily CVCVC with empty C-slots permitted.
Amarasi has eleven consonants: /p t k ʔ b f s h m n r/ and five vowels: /i e a o u/. In addition, the voiced obstruents /ʤ/ and /gw/ occur mainly in certain morphophonemic environments (see Sect. A.2).3 Edwards (2016a) is a more complete description of Amarasi segmental phonology and phonetics.
2.1.1 Vowel sequences and syllabification
The Amarasi syllable maximally consists of an onset C-slot, a nucleus V-slot and a coda C-slot. Consonant clusters, up to a maximum of two consonants, are only permitted at the beginning of the final/only disyllabic foot of a word and in Sect. 2.1.3 I propose that they are associated with feet, not syllables. Thus the syllable structure can be stated as: σ → (C)V(C). With one exception (discussed in Sect. 2.1.2 below) each segmental vowel is the nucleus of a single syllable.
A word medial C-slot is ambisyllabic (Clements and Keyser 1983:36, Durand 1990:217ff); it is both the coda of the previous syllable and the onset of the second syllable. As a result, the only consonants which are purely codas (and not also onsets) are those which are foot final such as the final consonant of Open image in new window Open image in new window muʔi Open image in new window ]] ‘animal’ or the first glottal stop in Open image in new window Open image in new window ata Open image in new window ] Open image in new window raʔe]] ‘praying mantis’. The syllabification of the words muʔit [ˈmʊʔi Open image in new window ] ‘animal’ and hitu [ˈhi Open image in new window ʊ] ‘seven’, as well as and the M-form hiut [ˈhi.ʊ Open image in new window ] ‘seven’, is shown in (2)–(4) below.
While each segmental vowel (with the exception of surface VVCV(C)# words) is the nucleus of its own syllable there are some situations in which a vowel sequence can optionally coalesce into a single phonetic syllable. This optional surface coalescence does not in any-way affect the underlying syllable structure. Two vowels which have coalesced into a single phonetic syllable remain the peak of two phonemic syllables for the purposes of stress assignment, reduplication, metathesis and all other morphophonemic processes of the language.
In Amarasi, the only difference between the unmetathesised form and the metathesised form is the order of the final CV sequence. The syllabification of both forms of ‘seven’ hitu [ˈhi Open image in new window ʊ] and hiut [ˈhi.ʊ Open image in new window ] is given in (12) below.
One process which illustrates well the fact that sequences of two identical vowels behave identically to sequences of two different vowels, is glottal stop infixation whereby the second part of each of the nominalising circumfixes ʔ-…-ʔ ‘object nominalisation’ and ma-…-ʔ ‘property nominalisation’ occurs as an infix between the vowels of a final vowel sequence.
When these circumfixes attach to a surface CVCV# root, or VVC# root, the glottal stop occurs word finally. Examples include mone ‘husband’ → ma-mone-ʔ ‘having a husband, married’, puah ‘betel-nut’ → ma-pua-ʔ ‘having betel-nut’,4, and n-toko ‘sits’ → ʔ-toko-ʔ ‘chair’.
However, when these circumfixes occur on a root with a final vowel sequence, the second glottal stop occurs between these two vowels as an infix. This includes words with a final sequence of two identical vowels. Examples are given in (16) below.
While sequences of two identical vowels usually coalesce into a single phonetic syllable, each vowel is still treated as the nucleus of a separate syllable with regards to every phonological and morphophonemic process of the language. The only difference between sequences of two identical vowels and sequences of two different vowels is the frequency with which phonetic coalescence occurs: coalescence is almost universal for sequences of two identical vowels and only optional for sequences of two different vowels.
Word stress in Amarasi falls on the penultimate syllable of the word, with secondary stress assigned to every second syllable to the left; thus ataʔraʔe → [ˌʔɐ Open image in new window ɐʔˈraʔε] ‘praying mantis’. The three main correlates of stress in Amarasi are duration, pitch and intensity. A stressed vowel is typically realised with higher pitch, increased intensity and is longer when compared to unstressed vowels.
Length, Pitch and Intensity of Vowels in nisi-f → [ˈnisɪf] ‘tooth’
2.1.3 Root structure
The Amarasi root has a highly constrained structure built around a disyllabic foot. Lexical roots5 are minimally composed of a CV(C)V(C) foot which can optionally be preceded by another foot, a CVC syllable (σ) or a single consonant. The maximum root size is thus quadrisyllabic.6 Coda clusters do not occur and consonant clusters almost universally occur only before the penultimate vowel of the foot.7
Amarasi root structures
Syllable onsets are optional word medially, but not word initially. When no consonant is specified word initially, a glottal stop is automatically inserted. Two examples are asu → [ˈ Open image in new window asʊ] ‘dog’ and ataʔraʔe → [ˌ Open image in new window ɐ Open image in new window ɐʔˈra.ʔε] ‘praying mantis’. Evidence that this is a productive process comes from roots such as √isa ‘most, completely, win’ which do not have a glottal stop when prefixed; n-isa → [ˈnisɐ] ‘3sg/3pl-utterly’, but do have a glottal stop when no prefix occurs; isa-t ‘utterly-nmlz’ → [ˈ Open image in new window isɐ Open image in new window ]. See Edwards (2017) for more discussion of glottal stop insertion in Amarasi.
Amarasi has a syllabic foot structure in which a foot consists of two syllables. Syllable weight plays no role in the language. That is, Amarasi is not a quantity sensitive language.
In line with the principle of Foot Binarity (Prince 1980; McCarthy and Prince 1993/2001:46; Hayes 1994) any third syllable is external to the foot and immediately dominated by the prosodic word (PrWd). The structures of bankofaʔ ‘caterpillar’ and mahataʔ ‘itchy’ are shown in (19) and (20) below.
That the reduplicant in partial reduplication occurs between the foot and any pre-foot material provides evidence that the foot constitutes a distinct domain of Amarasi word structure. That the reduplicant consists of CVC provides support for analysing the Amarasi syllable as having this structure.
In this section I have discussed the prosodic and phonotactic structures of Amarasi. The following facts are particularly pertinent for analysing M-forms:
Sequences of identical vowels behave identically to sequences of different vowels. (They are best analysed as vowel sequences rather than unitary long vowels.)
Each vowel is the nucleus of a unique syllable, with the exception of the initial sequence of VVCV# words. (Any coalescence of adjacent vowels is a subsequent, optional, phonetic effect.)
Stress falls on the penultimate vowel of the foot. (Stress is identical for U-forms and M-forms. Syllable weight plays no role in stress assignment.)
Amarasi words have a highly constrained structure built around the CV(C)V(C) foot.
2.2 Functions of metathesis in Amarasi
M-forms and U-forms in Amarasi are distinct morphological forms. A complete description of the functions of these forms can be found in Edwards (2016b). In this section I provide only a brief overview.
Amarasi M-forms and U-forms have two distinct morphological functions: one to mark syntactic structures and one to mark discourse structures. Syntactically driven metathesis is a morphological device used to mark the presence of an attributive modifier of the same word class as the head. Such M-forms are a construct form.
3 The form of the M-form
In this section I describe the different phonological processes used to form the M-form in Amarasi. Which processes occur depends on the phonotactic shape of the U-form stem. These processes include: metathesis (Sect. 3.1), consonant deletion (Sect. 3.2, Sect. 3.4) two kinds of vowel assimilation (Sect. 3.3) and vowel deletion (Sect. 3.5).
It is worth emphasising that in most cases the order of the final consonant and vowel of the word is the only difference between the U-form and the M-form of VCV# final roots.9 Metathesis is not accompanied by any reduction in the number of syllables nor by any change in the placement of stress.
Such metathesis applies to all VCV# final roots, with the exception of roots in which the final vowel is /a/ (Sect. 3.3.2) or when the penultimate vowel is high and the final vowel is mid (Sect. 3.3.1). Such roots undergo metathesis followed by vowel assimilation.
3.2 Complication 1: Metathesis and consonant deletion
3.3 Complication 2: Metathesis and vowel assimilation
3.3.1 Mid vowel assimilation
Vowel sequences of a high vowel followed by a mid vowel are not found in Amarasi; there are no attestations of *ie, *io, *ue or *uo. For this reason, the mid vowel assimilation observed when the final vowel is high and the penultimate vowel is mid can be explained by the phonotactic constraints of the language.
3.3.2 Assimilation of /a/
3.4 Complication 3: Consonant deletion
Unlike the consonant deletion seen for VCVC# words (Sect. 3.2), this consonant deletion cannot be accounted for by surface phonotactic constraints of the language. In Sect. 4 I show that by positing that such words have a medial empty C-slot, this consonant deletion can also be analysed as an automatic result of metathesis and a prohibition against word final consonant clusters, including clusters involving empty C-slots.
3.5 Complication 4: Vowel deletion
3.6 No change
4 Unified analysis
A number of surface phonological operations occur in the formation of the M-form in Amarasi. Such phonological processes include: metathesis, consonant deletion and assimilation of /a/. Furthermore, metathesis itself can trigger further processes of consonant deletion, vowel deletion, and vowel height assimilation.
Amarasi surface M-forms
The M-form must be derived from the U-form as there is a large amount of ambiguity among M-forms. For instance, given an M-form with the shape V1V2C1#, we cannot predict whether the U-form will have a shape corresponding to any of shapes 1.–6. in Table 4. A concrete example is the form n-neen, which is the M-form of both n-nene ‘pushes’ and n-nena ‘hears’.
In this section I propose an analysis of the formation of all the different M-forms. I use an autosegmental model of phonology (Goldsmith 1976) and a rule based model of process morphology (Matthews 1974; Anderson 1992). Adopting these models allows me to formulate a single, unified analysis of the diverse processes which occur in the formation of Amarasi M-forms. In Sect. 5 I discuss alternate analyses which, while they can account for some of the data, cannot account for all the Amarasi data.
My analysis consists of a single process of metathesis at the CV tier and an associated morphemically conditioned process (/a/ assimilation). These processes, combined with an obligatory CVCVC foot structure and the general phonotactic constraints of Amarasi, generate all the different M-forms.
In my autosegmental diagrams in the following sections empty C-slots are occasionally ‘filled’ with ∅ in order to make it explicit that they behave identically to filled C-slots. This is a notational convenience. Similarly, the x-tier (or timing tier) is used as a notational device to illustrate clearly the effect of metathesis. Use of the x-tier should not be taken as a claim about its theoretical status.
4.1 The phonological rule: Obligatory CVCVC foot
The structures of the words fafi ‘pig’, muʔit ‘animal’, kaut ‘papaya’, ai ‘fire’, nautus ‘beetle’ and aunu ‘spear’ under this analysis are given in (53) below.
4.2 The morphological rule: Metathesis
4.2.1 Metathesis and mid vowel assimilation
As discussed in Sect. 3.3.1, any final mid vowel assimilates to the height of a previous high vowel after metathesis. This vowel height assimilation is an instance of vowel harmony, arising out of the fact that that sequences of a high vowel and mid vowel are disallowed in Amarasi.10
4.2.2 Metathesis and vowel deletion
The vowel deletion seen in words with a phonetic diphthong, such as aunu [ˈʔəwnʊ] → aun [ˈʔə.ʊn] ‘spear’, results from metathesis and the fact that Amarasi does not allow sequences of three surface vowels. Recall from Sect. 2.1.2 that the first two vowels of words with a phonetic diphthong are associated to a single V-slot, as shown by the fact that stress falls on the antepenultimate vowel rather than the penultimate vowel.
There are no other processes in Amarasi which create a sequence of three vowels within a morpheme. All other potential VVV sequences would occur across a morpheme boundary in which case consonants are inserted; a voiced obstruent morpheme finally (Sect. A.2), and a glottal stop morpheme initially (Sect. A.4, Edwards 2017:427f).
The derivation of the M-form for a word such as aunu [ˈʔəwnʊ] → aun [ˈʔə.ʊn] ‘spear’ is not significantly different to that of a word such as fanu [ˈfanʊ] → faun [ˈfa.ʊn] ‘eight’. In both circumstances the M-form is VVC final with each vowel the peak of its own syllable. The only difference is in the resolution of the disallowed sequence of three vowels for VVCV(C)# final words.
4.3 The morphemically conditioned rule: Assimilation of /a/
The reason only /a/ assimilates in Amarasi can be explained by the fact that it is almost featureless.12 Perhaps apart from the feature [+low], /a/ is not specified for front or back. This lack of features allows the features of the stressed vowel to spread when the V-slot to which /a/ is associated occurs immediately after it.
The rule of /a/ assimilation in (58) only occurs before filled C-slots. That is, it does not occur in the M-form of words such as kuan → kua ‘village’. I analyse the lack of assimilation in such forms as being due to the lack of a following filled C-slot.
Ro'is Amarasi Post-stress /a/ Assimilation
The assimilation of /a/ in Ro'is Amarasi final syllables only applies to words which end in a surface consonant; a filled C-slot. It does not occur in words end in a vowel; an empty C-slot. Two such examples are Amarasi na-tfeka and Ro'is Amarasi na-tfera*na-tfere ‘to decide’, as well as Amarasi ʔrim-rimaʔ Ro'is Amarasi rim-rima*rim-rimi ‘firefly’. In both these examples the Ro'is Amarasi forms are vowel final and under an analysis employing the obligatory CVCVC foot thus end in an empty C-slot.
clusters of two C-slots are prohibited word finally
sequences of three surface vowels are prohibited
vowel sequences consisting of a high-vowel and mid-vowel are prohibited
This rule based analysis of Amarasi accounts for all of the data in a single consistent way. In the final section of this paper I consider some alternate analyses. While these analyses can account for some of the data Amarasi data they cannot account for all of the data.
5 Alternate approaches
In the final part of this paper I consider the ways alternate approaches would handle the Amarasi data. There are no existing proposals in the literature which can adequately handle all of the Amarasi data.
In Sect. 5.1 I consider whether an approach framed within prosodic morphology (McCarthy and Prince 1990, 1993/2001) can explain the Amarasi data. In particular, I consider whether the analysis of McCarthy (2000) for Rotuman metathesis or that of Heinz (2004) for Kwara’ae can be extended to Amarasi. While such analyses can explain a small amount of the Amarasi data, they cannot explain it all. Furthermore, because there is no consistent single prosodic structure present in Amarasi surface M-forms, an analysis framed within prosodic morphology does not seem appropriate.
In Sect. 5.2 I show that Amarasi metathesis cannot be analysed as phonologically conditioned as has been proposed for Rotuman (Hale and Kissock 1998; McCarthy 2000), Kwara’ae (Heinz 2004), and Luang (Taber and Taber 2015).
Finally, In Sect. 5.3 I show that it is typologically implausible to analyse the Amarasi data as a fundamentally concatenative process involving affixation of a CV melody to the segmental information of a word.
5.1 Prosodic morphology
One alternate approach to the data would be to analyse Amarasi metathesis within the framework of prosodic morphology. Such an analysis has been proposed by McCarthy (2000) for Rotuman metathesis. Similarly, Heinz (2004) proposes an analysis of synchronic metathesis in Kwara’ae which is compatible with a prosodic morphological approach. After a discussion of each of these analyses, I show that neither can be adapted and/or extended to the Amarasi data.
Rotuman has been described most comprehensively by Churchward (1940).13 In Rotuman each word has two forms, first labelled by Churchward the ‘complete phase’ (≈ U-form) and the ‘incomplete’ phase (≈ M-form).
Rotuman phase alternation
An analysis of the Rotuman data within the framework of prosodic morphology and Optimality Theory (Prince and Smolensky 1993) is presented in McCarthy (2000). McCarthy (2000:159) bases his analysis on the observation that “The incomplete phase is identical to the complete phase, except that the final foot of the complete phase is realised as a monosyllabic foot in the incomplete phase.” Regarding words which form the complete phase via metathesis, such as hoʔa → hoaʔ ‘take’, McCarthy (2000) argues that the incomplete phase consists of a single syllable, as is consistent with more recent descriptions of Rotuman including Besnier (1987) and Vamarasi (2002).14
Under McCarthy’s analysis Rotuman is a weight sensitive language. Because a (metathesised) monosyllable such as hoaʔ ‘take’ is consonant final, it has two morae and bears stress as expected for a heavy syllables in a weight sensitive language.
McCarthy (2000) also draws upon the observation by Hale and Kissock (1998) that in most cases the use of the two stems in Rotuman is conditioned by the number of syllables of a following suffix or enclitic. Suffixes and enclitics consisting of two or more syllables trigger the complete phase, while monosyllabic or non-syllabic suffixes and enclitics occur with a stem in the incomplete phase.15
McCarthy (2000:156) then draws upon the principle of Foot Binarity, whereby feet are required to consist of a minimum of either two syllables or two morae. McCarthy proposes that polysyllabic suffixes and enclitics are prosodically external to the stem, as they are eligible to form independent feet. Non-syllabic and monosyllabic suffixes, on the other hand cannot form feet and are thus bound to the stem.
Metathesis in Kwara’ae has been described by Sohn (1980) and Heinz (2004, 2005). Blevins and Garrett (1998) also present previously unpublished data collected by Andrew Pawley and David Gegeo. In this section I summarise the description and analysis of Kwara’ae metathesis in Heinz (2004).
According to Heinz’s description, each Kwara’ae unmetathesised form in (68) contains one or more stressed syllables with a single vowel which are followed by an unstressed vowel. Each metathesised form contains stressed syllables, each of which is a heavy syllable containing either a vowel and glide or a long vowel.
Although the analysis of McCarthy (2000) for Rotuman and the analysis of Heinz (2004) for Kwara’ae are different in several details, in each case metathesis is analysed as occurring in order to create a monosyllabic form which bears stress.
Whatever merits these analyses may have for Rotuman or Kwara’ae, they cannot be extended to describe the Amarasi data. This is because in most cases the stress and number of syllables of a U-form and M-form are identical.
This is true of forms with different penultimate and final vowels which undergo metathesis, such as hitu [ˈhi. Open image in new window ʊ] → hiut [ˈhi.ʊ Open image in new window ] ‘seven’. It is true of words which undergo metathesis and deletion of a final consonant, such as muʔit [ˈmʊ.ʔi Open image in new window ] → muiʔ [ˈmʊ.iʔ] ‘animal’. It is also true of words which undergo deletion of a final consonant such as kuan [ˈkʊ.ɐn] → kua [ˈkʊ.ɐ] ‘village’.17
The only cases in which such an analysis could be successfully applied are those in which the M-form is, arguably, a reduced form. This includes words in which the penultimate and final vowel are identical, such as fini [ˈfɪ.ni] → fiin [ˈfiːn] ‘seed’, or those in which assimilation of /a/ occurs, such as nima [ˈni.mɐ] → niim [ˈniːm] ‘five’. It also perhaps includes words with an initial phonetic diphthong, such as nautus [ˈnəw. Open image in new window ʊs] → naut [ˈnə.ʊ Open image in new window ] ‘beetle’.
In cases in which the M-form has a final sequence of two identical vowels, such as fini [ˈfɪ.ni] → fiin [ˈfiːn] ‘seed’, there is a reduction in the number of phonetic syllables, with a resultant change in stress from a light syllable to a heavy syllable. In such instances alone an analysis along the lines of McCarthy (2000) or Heinz (2004) in which metathesis occurs to create a heavy stressed syllable could be proposed. However, given the evidence for treating phonetically long vowels as a sequence of two identical vowels (Sect. 2.1.1), and the fact that Amarasi is otherwise not a weight sensitive language (Sect. 2.1.2), this analysis is not consistent with other facts of the language.
Not only does such an analysis contradict other facts of Amarasi, but it also cannot account for all the data, as the M-form of words such as hitu [ˈhi Open image in new window ʊ] → hiut [ˈhi.ʊ Open image in new window ] ‘seven’ simply does not contain a stressed heavy syllable. Therefore, neither of the analyses proposed by McCarthy (2000) or Heinz (2004) can be explain all the Amarasi data.
Furthermore, it is not at all clear that any analysis framed within prosodic morphology could account for the Amarasi data.
One approach, broadly in-line with the notion that consonant-vowel metathesis is a reduction strategy, would be to propose that the M-forms occur in order to create a phonetically shorter form. An M-form with a vowel sequence such as hiut [ˈhi.ʊ Open image in new window ] ‘seven’ is usually, though not always, phonetically shorter than the U-form hitu [ˈhi Open image in new window ʊ] in which the two vowels are separated by a consonant.18 Apart from the fact that the phonetic length of a word in Amarasi is primarily determined by speech speed, sentence stress, and pragmatics rather than the phonotactic shape of a word, this approach would leave unexplained forms in which the U-form and M-form both have a vowel sequence, such as kuan [ˈkʊ.ɐn] → kua [ˈkʊ.ɐ] ‘village’.
Another possibility would be to propose that there is a requirement that M-forms occur in order to create consonant final forms. Such a proposal does not explain why VVC# U-forms such as kuan [ˈkʊ.ɐn] → kua [ˈkʊ.ɐ] ‘village’ delete their final consonant to form a M-form, nor why already consonant final U-forms such as [ˈmʊ.ʔi Open image in new window ] → muiʔ [ˈmʊ.iʔ] ‘animal’ undergo metathesis in the M-form.
The diversity in the surface prosodic structures of M-forms in Amarasi confounds an analysis framed within prosodic morphology. While in Rotuman there is a comparable diversity in forms, nearly all instances of the incomplete phase have been analysed as bi-moraic monosyllables, thus an analysis framed within prosodic morphology is successful.
A prosodic morphology approach to the Amarasi data encounters serious challenges which cannot obviously be overcome. Instead, by adopting a process based model of morphology and an obligatory CVCVC foot structure for U-forms, the different processes in the formation of the Amarasi M-form can be explained with a single process of metathesis and a single morphemically conditioned rule of /a/ assimilation. This analysis accounts for the formation of all Amarasi M-forms in a simple, consistent, unified way.
Finally, regarding Optimality Theory, which is utilised in the analyses of McCarthy (2000) and Heinz (2004), the high level of opacity/ambiguity in the formation of M-forms—including at least one derived environment effect (Sect. 3.3.2)—indicates that standard Optimality Theory would not fare particularly well in Amarasi. This is one of the reasons I have not employed it in this paper.
5.2 Phonologically conditioned metathesis
Another possible approach to the Amarasi data would be to analyse metathesis as phonologically conditioned. This is, in fact, part of the analysis of Rotuman given by McCarthy (2000:168) who explicitly rejects the idea that there is a metathesis morpheme and states: “[…] earlier accounts of the phase difference are inadequate empirically, since it does not make sense to talk of a phase morpheme or template.”19
Another language with synchronic consonant-vowel metathesis which has been analysed as phonologically conditioned is Luang in the Timor region (Taber and Taber 2015). For Luang, Taber and Taber (2015:24) propose that metathesis is one of several phonological processes which operates to join adjacent words into a single rhythm unit with only one stressed syllable.
Whatever the case may be for Rotuman or Luang, metathesis in Amarasi cannot be reduced to a phonologically conditioned process. As discussed in Sect. 2.2, metathesis in Amarasi is the only phonological marking of certain syntactic and/or discourse structures.
Amarasi nouns and numerals
There is no phonetic difference between each kind of phrase, with the exception of the metathesis of the noun and, where applicable, the addition of the glottal stop forming ordinal numbers. In every phrase the noun has two syllables and stress falls on the penultimate vowel of the numeral. Compare especially the phrase neno meseʔ ‘a single day’ with that of neon meseʔ ‘first day (Monday)’, in which the only difference is in the metathesis of the noun.
Instead, the M-form marks that these phrases have different syntactic structures. Ordinal numbers occur within the noun phrase while cardinal numbers occur outside of the noun phrase as the head of a number phrase. The different syntactic structures of the phrases neno meseʔ ‘one day’ and neon meseʔ ‘Monday’ are shown in (70) and (71) below.
5.3 Affixation of consonant-vowel melody
A final possible analysis of Amarasi metathesis would be to analyse it under an item and arrangement model of morphology in which the consonant-vowel template itself is a kind of affix which attaches to the segmental information of a word. This is the analysis proposed by Stonham (1994:160f) for Rotuman metathesis and would be similar to the analysis of Arabic morphology in McCarthy (1981).
Under such an analysis, each consonant of an Amarasi word would be ordered with respect to each other consonant and each vowel would be ordered with respect to each other vowel, but consonants and vowels would not be ordered with respect to one another. an Amarasi word such as fatu ~ faut ‘stone’ could then be represented as either /ft,au/ or /au,ft/. This segmental information then combines with the appropriate consonant-vowel melody. This is shown in (72) below which makes explicit the concatenative nature of this analysis, and in (73) with autosegmental notation. Examples (72a) and (73a) show U-forms and examples (72b) and (73b) show M-forms.
While a concatenative analysis accurately describes the data, there are two ways in which the process-based analysis adopted in this paper better fits the Amarasi data.
Firstly, it is always possible to derive surface M-forms from U-forms, but not visa-versa. Under a concatenative analysis, we simply have two affixes CVCV for the U-form and CVVC for the M-form, with no clear relationship between the two, and no apparent explanation for why one form predicts the latter but not visa-versa. Under a process-based analysis this is simply because M-forms are formed by CV metathesis from U-forms.
Secondly, the affixal approach to metathesis is completely unconstrained. Under such an analysis there is no clear reason why the M-form melody has the shape CVVC instead of any other arbitrary shape.21 On the other hand, adopting an obligatory CVCVC foot structure for U-forms with a single rule of CV metathesis after stressed vowels typologically fits with observations of cross linguistic patterns of CV metathesis in which such metathesis affects syllables immediately before or after the stressed syllable.22
An obvious defence of the concatenative analysis would be the observation that there are languages in which all sorts of consonant-vowel melodies occur, such as Arabic or Miwok. However, there are sound typological and areal reasons for positing a process-based metathesis analysis for the Amarasi data rather than a concatenative CV-melodic analysis: languages with independent CV-melodies are not found in the Timor region, while there are many languages in this region which have consonant-vowel metathesis; whether phonologically conditioned, morphemically conditioned or purely morphological.
In this paper I presented data from Amarasi, a language in which each word has two forms which are used in different morpho-syntactic environments: the U-form and the M-form. A number of different phonological processes occur in the formation of the M-form including: consonant-vowel metathesis, consonant deletion and two different kinds of vowel assimilation.
All these processes can be explained under an autosegmental model of phonology and a process based model of morphology by positing that Amarasi has an obligatory CVCVC foot structure in which C-slots can be empty, a single morphological rule of consonant vowel metathesis at the CV-tier after stressed V-slots, and a single morphemically conditioned rule of /a/ assimilation.
I also considered alternate approaches to the data including other analyses of processes of consonant-vowel metathesis. An analysis of Amarasi metathesis within prosodic morphology which parallels that of McCarthy (2000) for Rotuman or Heinz (2004) for Kwara’ae is not possible as Amarasi is not a weight sensitive language and metathesis does not result in a reduction of the number of syllables. Furthermore, the diversity of prosodic structures found in Amarasi M-forms are likely to confound a unified analysis of Amarasi M-forms within prosodic morphology.
I also showed that Amarasi metathesis cannot be analysed as phonologically conditioned and that a concatenative analysis of Amarasi M-forms is typologically highly implausible and does not explain why U-forms predict M-forms but not visa-versa.
Amarasi therefore presents a true case of morphological metathesis. The existence of languages with morphological metathesis must be taken seriously and must inform the development of morphological theory. In this respect, I echo the sentiment of Thompson and Terry Thompson (1969:217) in their discussion of morphological metathesis in Klallam.
Given the existence of true cases of morphological metathesis, the next step is a careful investigation of both the form and function of reported cases of metathesis. Doing so is a fruitful way in which we can enrich and further refine our understanding of both morphology and phonology.
The labels ‘U-form’ and ‘M-form’ should be taken as the names of two different morphological forms, similar to the terms ‘complete phase’ and ‘incomplete phase’ coined by Churchward (1940) in his discussion of Rotuman metathesis. The labels ‘U-form’ and ‘M-form’ can be taken as formal or functional abbreviations. Formally, the M-form is the Open image in new window etathesised form while the U-form is the Open image in new window nmetathesised or Open image in new window nderlying form. Functionally, in the syntax M-forms mark Open image in new window odification and in the discourse U-forms mark Open image in new window nresolved events or situations.
Current work indicates that Tais Nonof is a label for the speech of those originally living along the coast of the Amarasi area, this includes people whose speech is mst similar to Kotos Amarasi and those whose speech is most similar to Ro'is Amarasi. From a comparative perspective, Kotos Amarasi is phonologically more closely related to other varieties of Uab Meto than it is to Ro'is Amarasi (Edwards 2016c). The term 'Hero' is applied by Amarasi speakers to Helong; a distinct people group with a distinct language, but this term may also be a distinct variety of Uab Meto in the Amarasi area.
The consonant /t/ is dental [ Open image in new window ]. The mid vowels /e/ and /o/ are mid-low [ε] and [ɔ], respectively. They are usually raised to mid-high [e] and [o] before other high vowels. The voiced obstruents are realised as either plosives [b ʤ gw] or fricatives [β Ʒ ɣw].
Culturally, betel-nut is chewed by all parties before any social gathering. Thus, ma-pua-ʔ ‘having betel-nut’ is used metaphorically to mean ‘preface, prelude, introduction’.
I draw a distinction between ‘lexical roots/words’ and ‘functors’ (Zorc 1978; Grimes 1991:85ff). Functors include words which typically have grammatical uses, such as relativisers, demonstratives, topic markers and pronouns. Lexical words/roots typically refer to events, states, properties and things.
It is probably the case that nearly all roots greater than two syllables are historic phrases or affix-stem combinations. There are a handful of roots greater than four syllables in my current database. All such roots can be identified as historic phrases. One such example is aiʤonuus ‘a kind of herb’ which is historically composed of aiʤoʔo ‘Casuarina tree’ and nuus which does not occur independently in Amarasi but is attested in other Uab Meto varieties with the meaning ‘blue’.
The only instances in which a consonant cluster occurs in a position other than immediately before the penultimate vowel of the foot are the three words ʔbakʔuru ‘Indian Mulberry’, ʔbo-boe ‘heron, stork’ and ʔbak-bakan ‘monitor lizard’. Of these, the last two are instances of frozen reduplication from disyllabic roots.
The M-form n-maet ‘3-die’ in (35) is formed from the root √mate and the M-form n-hain ‘3-dig’ in (36) is formed from the root √hani.
The only exceptions are words with identical penultimate and final vowels such as fini [ˈfini] → fiin [ˈfiːn] ‘seed’, in which case there is a reduction in the number of phonetic syllables and thus arguably also in the placement of stress. Note however, as discussed in Sect. 2.1.1, there is no basis for analysing such words differently from words with different penultimate and final vowels.
Amarasi exhibits one other instance of vowel harmony involving height. This is raising of the mid-vowels to mid-high before high vowels. Thus, mid-vowels /e/ and /o/ are usually realised as mid-low. Three examples are kofaʔ → [ˈk Open image in new window fɐ] ‘canoe’, mneas → [ˈ Open image in new window as] ‘hulled rice’, and seo → [ˈs Open image in new window ] ‘nine’. However, before the high vowels /i/ or /u/, mid vowels are usually raised to mid-high. Examples include n-reruʔ → [ˈndɾ Open image in new window ɾʊʔ] ‘sleepy’, betiʔ → [ˈβ Open image in new window tiʔ] ‘fried’, koʔu → [ˈk Open image in new window ʔʊ] ‘big’, and ori-f → [ˈʔ Open image in new window ɾɪf] ‘younger same sex sibling’.
The stem n-aena ‘runs, flees’ is the only stem in my current corpus with an initial phonetic diphthong in which the penultimate and final vowels are not identical and which does not end in a consonant. (Recall from Sect. 3.3.2 that /a/ assimilates after metathesis when followed by a consonant). Thus, it is the only stem which shows that it must be the third vowel and not the second vowel which is deleted.
In addition to Churchward (1940), both Besnier (1987) and Vamarasi (2002) also present descriptions of Rotuman based on their own fieldwork. Each of these three descriptions differs in details. This may be partly because the authors worked with different speakers at different times and may also be partly because they use different language/terminology to describe the same phenomena. In this section I use Churchward (1940) as the basis for my discussion, as this is also the basis for most subsequent discussion of Rotuman.
The proposal that the incomplete phase was monosyllabic when Churchward (1940) conducted his fieldwork is far from certain. Churchward (1940:86) states that “[T]he stress seems to be levelled out, so to speak, in the inc[omplete] phase. Thus: fora becomes foar, which is pronounced almost, though perhaps not quite, as one syllable, the stress being evenly distributed …” This statement is ambiguous. While McCarthy (2000) takes it to suggest the incomplete phase is a monosyllabic word, it can also be taken to mean that the incomplete phase is shorter in phonetic length even though it remains two syllables.
As noted by McCarthy (2000:162), Hale and Kissock (1998) identify two zero suffixes which occur with the complete phase and one monosyllabic suffix which occurs with the incomplete phase. Nonetheless, McCarthy (2000) does not offer any explanation for their aberrant behaviour beyond the analysis of Hale and Kissock (1998) in which these suffixes are actually moraic.
McCarthy (2000) uses different examples to illustrate the prosodic structures of the complete and incomplete phase of words. I have selected different examples in order to illustrate clearly the difference between metathesised and unmetathesised forms.
It is also worth noting that while words which end in VV#, such as ai [ʔa.i] ‘fire’, do not have distinct M-forms and U-forms in Amarasi, the prosodic structure of such a word is identical when it occurs in either a U-form or M-form environment (see Sect. 2.2 for a summary of the use of each form).
That the total length of a vowel sequence is usually shorter than the combined length of two vowels separated by a consonant is confirmed by an instrumental phonetic study. I marked vowels in Praat in three recorded texts from a single speaker and extracted their lengths with a script. (Words with a distinctive pause intonation were discarded.) This resulted in 255 measurements of both the vowels in forms such as hitu ‘seven’ (That is, the measurements of 510 vowels with the length of the penultimate and final vowels summed.) and 243 lengths of vowel sequences in M-forms such as hiut ‘seven’. The average length of two vowels separated by a consonant was 0.17 seconds and the average length of a vowel sequence was 0.13 seconds. A two tailed t-test showed that this difference was statistically significant (p>0.001). The lengths of 385 vowel sequences in U-forms such as kuan ‘village’ were also extracted and had an average length of 0.12 seconds. A two tailed t-test showed that the difference between vowel sequences in M-forms and U-forms is probably not statistically significant (p = 0.11).
That McCarthy (2000) explicitly rejects the notion of a “phase morpheme” is surprising given that Churchward (1940) gives many examples in which the use of the complete phase or incomplete phase is the only marker of a semantic difference. It can be used to mark a definite/indefinite distinction as in the pair famori ʔea ‘The people say.’ and famør ʔea ‘Some people say.’ (Churchward 1940:15). It can also be used to mark question answer pairs as in ʔe una ‘In the middle, did you say?’ ʔe uan ‘In the middle.’ (Churchward 1940:95). McCarthy (2000) does not offer any analysis of such uses of the incomplete/complete phase beyond mentioning that Hale and Kissock (1998) analysed such forms as taking zero suffixes which bear moraic weight.
The ordinal numbers in 7 are those used for counting days and months, and are derived from the cardinal numbers with the addition of a glottal stop as a suffix or infix.
The language-specific phonotactic structures of Amarasi would be one constraining factor.
Blevins and Garrett (1998) identify two kinds of CV metathesis for which I have further identified instances in which such metathesis is a morphological process. Firstly, there is compensatory metathesis in which metathesis develops through the weakening of unstressed syllables either before or after stressed vowels. This is the kind of metathesis found in Amarasi. Secondly, there is pseudo-metathesis in which metathesis develops through epenthesis and apocope, in which case metathesis is usually anchored to the left or right edge of a word. Pseudo-metathesis is one of the kinds of metathesis found in Luang (Taber and Taber 2015) and Leti (van Engelenhoven 1996, 2004).
Fig. 3 is based on information in Schapper (2015:135ff) as well as information provided by Charles Grimes (p.c. March 2015) and David Gil (p.c. December 2014). In this map ‘synchronic metathesis’ is used for instances of consonant-vowel metathesis which are phonologically conditioned, morphemically conditioned, or for which the data is currently ambiguous.
A similar Naitbelak Amfo'an example is agoel ‘rattan’ which can be compared with Fatule'u ual and Molo ue ‘rattan’.
I wish to thank Mark Donohue, Charles Grimes and two anonymous reviewers for comments on an earlier version of this paper which greatly helped improve the presentation and discussion. I would also like to thank the Language and Culture Unit (UBB) in Kupang with whose support the data presented in this article were gathered.
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