Harmony Processes

  • Morris Halle
  • Jean-Roger Vergnaud
Part of the Synthese Language Library book series (SLAP, volume 13)


Harmony processes characteristically regulate the distribution of a given feature or feature complex in specific, not necessarily contiguous phonemes of a word. For example, in Finnish words the back-front contrast in rounded and in low vowels — but not in nonlow unrounded vowels — agrees with that of the stem, whereas in Navaho words, the contrast of anterior-nonanterior in coronal affricates and continuants — but not in other phonemes — is determined by the last coronal affricate or continuant in the word. Harmony processes fall into two distinct types depending on whether the harmonic features propagate in one direction only, or whether the propagation occurs in both directions. We shall term the former type, directional harmony, and the latter type, dominant harmony. We propose that the facts of dominant harmony are best described with the devices of autosegmental phonology, whereas those of directional harmony are best characterized by making use of the tree construction developed in recent work in metrical phonology.1We illustrate these proposals in sections 1 and 2 below; in section 3 we compare the descriptive effectiveness of the two mechanisms in dealing with different bodies of data.


Terminal Node Contour Tone Vowel Harmony High Vowel Word Opaque 
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Copyright information

© M. Halle and J.-R. Vergnaud 1981

Authors and Affiliations

  • Morris Halle
  • Jean-Roger Vergnaud

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