[Working Papers of the Cornell Phonetics Laboratory 10 (December 1995), 67–96.]
The prosodic structure of Burmese: a constraint-based approach
The Burmese language has been discussed descriptively by a variety of authors, including Bernot (1963), (1980), Okell (1969), and Wheatley (1987), but little work on the theoretical aspects of Burmese phonology has been done.2 In this paper I propose to explain the structure of the syllable, foot, and prosodic word in Burmese, using a constraint-based framework. In particular, I shall discuss several issues in the prosodic structure of Burmese, including the distinction between and distribution of major and minor syllables and the nature of the foot in Burmese. To this end I shall propose that in Burmese, a prosodic category is permitted to contain no more than one of the next lower prosodic category; this constraint is responsible for the idiosyncratic prosodic behavior seen in Burmese.
In the rest of section 1 I give the inventory of Burmese surface phones—vowels, tones, and consonants. In section 2 I discuss major and minor syllables. In section 3 I argue that the foot in Burmese is a single heavy syllable, not the iamb proposed by Bennett (1994) for Thai and by Griffith (1991) for Cambodian. In section 4 I discuss the prosodic word (PrWd) with especial attention to compounds and superlong words. In section 5 I discuss the maximum size of prosodic categories and propose a family of constraints called Unarity to limit the size of any prosodic category to exactly one of the next lower prosodic category. Finally, in section 6 I present other constraints necessary to account for the prosodic behavior of Burmese.
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