Ternary Feet in Optimality Theory

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2019
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Swarthmore College. Dept. of Linguistics
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en
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Full copyright to this work is retained by the student author. It may only be used for non-commercial, research, and educational purposes. All other uses are restricted.
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Abstract
If you've ever studied Shakespeare, you know that Shakespeare uses iambic pentameter. Generally, it alternates weak and strong beats, creating a rhythm that sounds like duh-DUH-duh-DUH-duhDUH- duh-DUH-duh-DUH. This feels natural, because it mimics the way English tends to sound. But this isn't a language universal. There are other languages that have different stress patterns. Some languages don't even use stress at all. Some have stress in a fixed position in a word. And some languages have stress that occurs every third syllable, rather than in alternating syllables. Ternary rhythm is a rare phenomenon, occurring in maybe five or six languages that we know of (Houghton 2008). If this is so rare, how do we explain it linguistically? Are our current theories and ways of doing phonology adequate to explain it? In this thesis, I will look at a relatively rare phenomenon (iterative ternary stress) and the ways it is modeled in Optimality Theory. I will begin by presenting the phenomenon and the theory I am using. Next, I will look at different ways that this phenomenon has been modeled. I will then suggest a way that it could modeled, that is not currently used (ternary feet). Finally, I will examine the history of ternary feet in phonology, and why they are not commonly used anymore. Throughout, I will make the argument that ternary feet are a viable alternative to other models and should be considered as a serious possibility.
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