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Abstract: Windsor & Cobler

In the L2 classroom, Blackfoot learners are required to master three rules in order to produce phrase- final alternations in a native-like manner: Long-vowel shortening (1), short-vowel deletion (2), and consonantal aspiration (3). Through phonetic analysis, we argue that a unified phonological explanation exists for all three processes.

(1)  Omahkanao'kssii  'fifty cents'         /omaxkanoːʔks           →        [omaxkanoːʔksi


(2)  Mistapoota 'go away'                       /mistapoːta/         →        [mistapoːtØ

(3)  Apiit 'sit down'                                 /apiːt/               →        [apiːth

While these processes have previously been discussed as disparate phenomena (Frantz 2009), we propose that they collectively result from a single phonological constraint which demarcates the right edge of prosodic phrases. We conclude that, while typologically uncommon, Blackfoot uses a perception-enhancement constraint (Keyser & Stevens 2006, Côté 2008) to force a fortition effect on the right edge of phrases; this causes a [+Spread Glottis] feature to be epenthesized despite the fact that this is a prosodically weak domain, where lenition processes would be more readily expected (Kenstowicz 1994, Beckman 2004). Our hypothesis explains the observed data, contra the accepted analysis that Blackfoot has little aspiration if any (Elfner 2006, Frantz 2009).

Our study’s corpus was elicited from four native speakers of Blackfoot. Forms were analyzed for

(i)  length of aspiration, (ii) vowel shortening or deletion compared to suffixed forms, and (iii) length of vowel devoicing. Preliminary results of this study show a near identical length of aspiration of final consonants and devoicing of final vowels which supports the hypothesis and unifies the three phenomena under a single phonological analysis.



Beckman, Jill. 2004. Positional faithfulness. In McCarthy, John J. (ed.) Optimality theory in phonology. Malden, MA: Blackwell. 310-42.

Côté, Marie-Hélène. 2008. Empty elements in schwa, liaison and H-aspiré: The French holy

trinity  revisited. In Hartmann, Jutta M. Hegedűs, Veronika & Van Riemsdijk, Henk (eds.) Sounds of silence: Empty elements in syntax and phonology. New York: Elsevier. 61-104.

Elfner, Emily. 2006. The mora in Blackfoot. Unpublished MA thesis. Calgary: University of Calgary. Frantz, Donald. 1991 [2009]. Blackfoot grammar. 2nd ed. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Kenstowicz, Michael. 1994. Phonology in generative grammar. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.

Keyser, Samuel J. & Stevens, Kenneth N. 2006. Enhancement and overlap in the speech chain.

Language 82(1). 81-109.



*The authors would like to thank Piitaikiitsipiimi, Aistanskiaki, Issapoikoan, and Ainootaa for providing the spoken language for this study.