Structural disparities in Navajo word domains: A case for lex-cat faithfulness

John Alderete

Abstract: This article gives a comprehensive analysis of the phonology of Navajo verbs in Optimality Theory based on the leading ideas of Positional Faithfulness (PF) Theory (Beckman 1998). In particular, faithfulness constraints are segregated according to whether they target lexical or functional categories in the morphosyntax, and the two resulting constraint types are employed in the analysis of the word domains created by this division. The PF analysis explains the observed differences between so-called conjunct prefixes, on the one hand, and disjunct prefixes and stems, on the other, which are classified in Athabaskan linguistics as func-cats and lex-cats, respectively (Rice 2000). PF provides a direct account of the structural disparities between these domains, as exhibited both by their phonological make-up and the occurrence of phonological alternations. These results distinguish the PF analysis from a plausible alternative employing Positional Markedness (Steriade 1999, Zoll 1998)

Keywords: Navajo, Athabaskan, phonology, morphology, Optimality Theory, positional faithfulness, positional markedness, lexical and function categories, morphology-phonology interface

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Full citation: Alderete, John. 2003. Structural disparities in Navajo word domains: A case for lex-cat faithfulness. The Linguistic Review 20: 111-158.