Chapter 9. Be careful what you throw out: Gemination and tonal feet in Weledeh Dogrib

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Jaker, Alessandro
Weledeh Dogrib; Yellowknives Dene First Nation; Northwest Territories; lexical phonology; consonant length
book chapter description
The Weledeh dialect of Dogrib (Tłįchǫ Yatiì) is spoken by people of the Yellowknives Dene First Nation, in and around Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. Within the formal framework of Lexical Phonology (Kiparsky 1982), this paper argues for an over-arching generalization in the phonology of Weledeh Dogrib: the constraint NoContour-Ft, which prefers (High-High) and (Low-Low) feet, but militates against (High-Low) and (Low-High) feet. NoContour-Ft is satisfied differently in different morphophonological domains: vowel deletion at the Stem Level, gemination at the Word Level, and High to Mid tone lowering at the Postlexical Level. This analysis requires that consonant length be treated as phonological in Dogrib—that is, consonant length contributes to syllable weight and mora count—even though there are no minimal pairs based on consonant length. Similarly, the distinction between High and Middle tone does not distinguish any lexical items, but is nevertheless important for the prosody of the language. Thus the paper makes a methodological point about the importance of allophonic alternations for phonological theory. Our view of what counts as contrastive or allophonic, however, is to a large extent theory-dependent; therefore, the paper also emphasizes the importance of phonetic measurements when doing fieldwork.