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Duration in Hebrew Consonants Author(s): Geoffrey Sampson Reviewed work(s): Source: Linguistic Inquiry, Vol. 4, No.

1 (Winter, 1973), pp. 101-104 Published by: The MIT Press Stable URL: . Accessed: 09/04/2012 01:43
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Pulte, W.

(I 97 1), "Gapping and Word Order in Quechua," in D. Adams et al., eds., PapersFrom theSeventhRegional Meeting of the Chicago Linguistic Society, University of

Chicago, Chicago, Illinois. Ross,J. R. (I 970) "Gapping and the Order of Constituents," in in M. Bierwisch and K. E. Heidolph, eds. Progress Mouton and Co., The Hague. Linguistics,




Sampson, Geoffrey The Queen'sCollege, Oxford

It is an open question whether we should representduration contrasts with geminate vs. single segments or with a feature "long" (Lehiste 1970, 43 if.). Although a duration feature has sometimes been used for vowels, most writers have used gemination for consonants. Ladefoged'sargument (I 97 I, 56) for a consonantal duration feature is vitiated by his statement that duration contrasts do not occur in semivowels: they do, for example, in Thai and Vietnamese (experimental data for Thai is in Hiranburana (I97I); see also Ladefoged 197 I, 8 I). Harms (1968, 36) proposes a convention whereby any pair of identical consonants satisfies the structural description of a long consonant and vice versa. One language for which gemination of consonants will not do is Biblical Hebrew.' This language had a (subphonemic) spirantisation rule by which p t k b d g becamef 6 x v 'king', vs. malka a y after vowels. Thus Imelex (< 'melek) 'queen'. (It is irrelevant for present purposes whether or not the rule remained as part of speakers'synchroniccompetence after having occurred as a historical event.) Notice in particular that a stop is not prevented from spirantising by the presence of an immediately following stop: mixtav'letter', cf. kaOav 'he wrote'. However, a long stop is not affected: 'he became great'; jaru:baTal gid:e'l'he magnified', vs. gdadal 'Jerubbaal', name derived from jdrev( < jdreb)+ baTal 'let Baal plead', see judges 6.32. How could this situation be represented if long stops are geminates? One possibility would be a rule :2
1 For a phonological description, see, e.g. Cantineau (I950). Many points about the phonetics of Biblical Hebrew are in doubt, but none of these, to my knowledge, are crucial to my argument. Circumflex on vowels is an arbitrary symbol denoting duration and/or a quality distinction. 2 The negative environment has to be specified as obstruent and alike in voice, since homorganic sonorants or stops differing in voice are no bar to spirantisation: cf. the spirantisation of d in e.g. ld'madna, ld'maatt 'we/I studied'. It is possible that the left-hand side of (I) needs an extra specification to prevent the "emphatic" stops t, q taking part in the alternation, but I ignore this problem as irrelevant to my argument.





( I)

-sonorant anterior P coronal


y voiced

+ continuant / V



y voiced

But the use of a symbol for negation would be a notational innovation. Alternatively, the environment of (i) could be Pattern representedin Sound of English(SPE) notation as ( I') + sonorant) (x') ____JV V -fl anternor I -a


-y voiced
However, McCawley (I 97 i) has argued rather convincingly that the SPE curly bracket convention is a mistake. And even if curly brackets were appropriate for some phenomena, they seem clearly out of place here: the use of curly brackets implies that spirantisation occurs in each of four partially similar, but distinct situations, whereas in fact a stop spirantises in just one situation (postvocalically) with one exception (when it is long). Given that a language has a postvocalic spirantisation rule, there are three possibilities for its effect on long stops: (i) they might be unaffected (the Hebrew situation); (ii) they could become clusters of short spirant and short stop; (iii) they could become long spirants. Under the geminate analysis of long stops, (i) is much costlier than (ii); (ii) can be expressed by the rule:



[+cont] / V

which not only uses fewer symbols than (i) but also includes no controversial notation. Case (iii) would be the costliest of all: the shortest rule would be: V

(3) [a





a ant

fi cor
Ly voi

I would argue, however, that it is no accident that Hebrew has (i) rather than (ii): to my intuition either (i) or (iii) is a much more likely situation than (ii). A duration-feature




analysis supports this ranking: (i) (i.e. Hebrew) is represented by: (4) [-long]
> [+cont] /V

and (iii) by the even simpler rule horrendous rule: -son < + long> a ant cor
y VO1

but (ii) requires the


+ cont] - long a ant ,B cor

y voi


-cont] -long a ant lcor /


\ V

(5) not only contains a very large number of feature specifications but also uses angle brackets; angle brackets, although not explicitly discussed by McCawley, are vulnerable to his criticisms of SPE notation. This argument suggests that Hebrew long stops cannot be analysed as geminates, even when they represent pairs of stops separated by a morpheme boundary (the 'Jerubbaal' case).3 Harms' convention will not do, for it permits any long stop to be interpreted either as one or two segments. Such a convention would predict that the simplest case (the case represented by (2) under the convention) would be that Vt: becomes either VOtor VO: in free variation (where t stands for an arbitrary stop); the Hebrew case, on the other hand, would require a rule like (i) but with "-long" added to the left-hand side. In one language, then, it seems that long phones must be treated as single segments. Are there any cases where such sounds have to be represented as clusters? In particular, do consonants and vowels differ in this respect? Finally, a puzzle remains. As well as the three situations we have considered, one could imagine a case (iv) in which spirantisation applied only to long consonants. Intuitively this seems
3 Cantineau (1950, I II iff.) gives data which seem to provide a second argument for this position: in unstressed syllables, a rounded vowel before a long consonant will always be u, but before a cluster of two different consonants it will usually be o, with u occurring as a rare free variant. Again this would be costly to state under the geminate analysis. However, this raises questions I cannot deal with about the complex morphophonemics of Hebrew vowels.





highly implausible-one feels that long sounds are more resistant to change than short ones.4 However, whether we adopt the geminate or the duration-feature notation, (iv) is no costlier than (i)-given a duration feature, we need only alter "- long" to " + long" in (4). How should we change the notation?
4 Thus it seems unsatisfactory that case (iii) is a feature cheaper than (i) under my analysis, although the important difference is between case (ii) and the others.

References Cantineau, J. (1950) "Essai d'une phonologie de l'hebreu de Linguistique de Paris biblique," Bulletinde la Societe

Harms, R. T. (I968) Introduction to PhonologicalTheory, Prentice-Hall, Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey. Hiranburana, S. (I97i) The Role of Accent in Thai Grammar, unpublished Doctoral dissertation, University of London. Ladefoged, P. (I971) Preliminaries to LinguisticPhonetics, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, Illinois. MIT Press, Cambridge, Lehiste, I. (1970) Suprasegmentals, Mass. McCawley, J. D. (I97I) "On the Role of Notation in Generative Phonology," mimeograph, Indiana University Linguistics Club, Bloomington, Indiana.


In a recently publishedpaper, Lakoff (I97i)


David C. Vetter, University of Massachusetts

principle for deleting the auxiliary will in English.' The principle, which he attributes to K. Burt, he states thus: "will can be deleted just in case it is presupposed that the event is one the speaker can be sure of." This is to account for pairssuch as (i) and (2):


Tomorrow, the Yankees (will) play the Red Sox.


b. Tomorrow, the Yankees {

play well.

I The particular passage which concerns us here may be found in Lakoff (I 97I, 339). Lakoff's formulation of the principle begs the question of whether we should consider it to be a principle governing deletion of will, or whether instead we should consider it to be a principle governing the interpretation of will-less clauses containing future adverbials. He provides no argument to support the deletion position, so the question seems to me to remain open.