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Nez Perce Vowels and Proto-Sahaptian Vowel Harmony

Bruce Rigsby and Michael Silverstein
Language
Vol. 45, No. 1 (Mar., 1969), pp. 45-59
DOI: 10.2307/411752
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/411752
Page Count: 15
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Nez Perce Vowels and Proto-Sahaptian Vowel Harmony
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Abstract

Vowel harmony in Sahaptian languages is an automatic assimilation of phonemes of a 'recessive' set to those of a 'dominant' one in the same sequence. It is describable with phonetic features of phonological segments, as opposed to class markings on whole morphemes. In fact, in the Sahaptin dialects, explaining palatalization of front velars requires setting up a preceding phonetic rule of vowel harmony, and different late rules of vowel merging. Historically, we can view the vowel harmony as a phonetic process arising in the dialects by parallel (but not identical) restructuring from a Proto-Sahaptian system of morphological ablaut.

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