Brazilian Portuguese syllable structure

Date of Completion

January 1988


Language, Linguistics




Phonology is that component of grammar that accounts for the distribution and patterning of sounds. This dissertation details a theory within which the rules of phonology are based on syllable structure configurations, which are built in accordance with X theoretical principles (Hong and Michaels (1985), Majdi and Michaels (1987)). Under this adaptation of the X structure building convention, X denotes a phonological category symbol (V, C, G). X immediately dominates X, which is its head, X may also (and optionally) dominate some other phonological category, the complement.^ Phonological alternation is handled by representing the segment that alternates as unspecified for the features on the basis of which it alternates. Where (w) alternates with (u), it is represented as (u vocalic) in the lexicon. Its realization as a glide follows when it is dominated by the syllable structure category G. Its realization as a vowel follows when it is dominated by the category V, from which it inherits the interpretation (+vocalic). Syllable structure categories (V, G, C) have inherent features and the feature matrices in their domain that lack specification for those features, for example (vocalic) above, are structurally interpreted by the dominating categories. Additionally, where a matrix is unmarked for some feature that has a specification in some other matrix in the same domain, structural feature specification takes place across the domain. Feature values not specified by structural marking are subject to interpretation by universal marking conventions.^ The study first presents a standard linear segmental analysis for a sample data set from Brazilian Portuguese. The segmental analysis motivates the analysis of the syllable as the central conditioning factor in phonological processes. Segmental rules, while descriptively adequate, fail to capture the generalization that segments often have distinct realizations depending on their role in the syllable; onset, rhyme, etc. The remainder of the work develops a theory of syllable structure phonology that provides for a general account of nasalization, palatalization, glide vocalization, liquid gliding, and related processes in Brazilian Portuguese. ^