Vol. 57 No. 2 (2019)

Vowel-zero alternations in Government Phonology and Strict CV Theory

Laura Bafile
Università di Ferrara

Published 2020-02-20


In the field of formal approaches to the syllable, the Strict CV theory (Lowenstamm 1996; Ségéral and Scheer 2001, 2008; Scheer 2004, among others) has introduced a radical change of view compared to autosegmental models. The core of the proposal is the fundamental assumption that the sequence CV is not just the fundamental syllable type, but rather the only syllable type in all the world’s languages. Inevitably, this assumption has profound consequences on the principles of phonological analysis. As a result, although strict CV is an outgrowth of Government Phonology (GP) and the two models share common epistemological goals and some central principles, they differ from each other in crucial aspects. Although the proponents of Strict CV have taken into account a considerable amount of  phonological phenomena of different languages, such radical change in the approach to the syllable and to phonological structure in general is obviously debatable (cf. van Oostendorp 2013).

This paper is concerned specifically with the different approaches of classical Government Phonology (cf. Kaye, Lowenstamm and Vergnaud 1990; Kaye 1990; Charette 1990; Harris 1994, among others) and Strict CV to vowel-zero (V/Ø) alternations. By taking into account here syncope/epenthesis alternations in Italian dialects of Emilia-Romagna, we will highlight that a crucial insight of GP concerning the nature of empty nuclei is lost in the deeply revised model of Strict CV, and we will argue in favour of a more restrictive theory of empty categories.

Sections 2 and 3 of the paper contain a presentation of some essential aspects of syllable theory in classical GP and Strict CV, respectively. In section 4, the issue of consonant clusters resulting from syncope in dialects of Emilia-Romagna will be briefly presented. Section 5 is devoted to a discussion of some theoretical implications concerning the notion empty nucleus. Section 6 contains some concluding remarks.