Natural Language & Linguistic Theory

, Volume 33, Issue 4, pp 1235–1270 | Cite as

Maximal prominence and a theory of possible licensors



Languages often single out prominent positions for special consideration, allowing certain elements to appear only in those positions. Often material in the prominent position surfaces faithfully but neutralizes elsewhere (preservation systems), but other systems involve the spreading or migration of features to the prominent position to comply with the positional restriction (overwrite systems). The set of positions that behave as prominent for preservation seems to be a superset of the positions that behave as prominent for overwrite. This paper argues that this asymmetry stems from differences between positional faithfulness and positional licensing. Only positional licensing produces overwrite; it is argued here that it may target only the most prominent positions, while positional faithfulness, which produces preservation, may target all kinds of prominent positions.


Prominence Positional licensing Positional faithfulness Positional markedness 



I am grateful to the following people for their generous feedback on various versions of this work: Ricardo Bermúdez-Otero, Rachel Hayes-Harb, Robert Henderson, Abby Kaplan, Rachel Walker, the audience at the 21st Manchester Phonology Meeting, and three anonymous reviewers. Their comments and questions have been enormously helpful.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of LinguisticsLanguages and Communication BLDGSalt Lake CityUSA

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