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91. Vowel Harmony: Opaque and Transparent Vowels

Adamantios I. Gafos and Amanda Dye

Subject Theoretical Linguistics » Phonology

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405184236.2011.00093.x


In linguistic theory, there is a tension between two core aims of the field: theoretical parsimony and empirical coverage of the remarkable diversity and specificity seen in linguistic data. Vowel harmony, and more specifically the two phenomena of transparency and opacity in vowel harmony that concern us in this chapter, provide prime examples of phonological research concerned with resolving this tension. Recent findings and promising new theoretical ideas on transparency and opacity indicate that our understanding of these phenomena is at a critical stage. The crucial future step will be the integration of the new data patterns with insights from theoretical analyses. This will require an improved understanding of the phonetic basis of vowel harmony, of the nature and origin of the grammatical forces governing transparency and opacity, and finally of the organizational principles governing the resolution of these forces within and across languages. Vowel harmony is a regularity found in many languages requiring vowels in certain grammatical domains to agree in terms of specific phonological features. For example, the vowels of Hungarian can be divided into two subsets, the “front” vowels /i iː e eː ø øː y yː/ and the “back” vowels /u uː o oː ɔ ɑː/ ( Vago 1980a ; van der Hulst 1985 ; Siptár and Törkenczy 2000 ; see also chapter 123 : hungarian vowel harmony ). In terms of ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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