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Vowel insertion in Scottish Gaelic*

  • Michael Hammond (a1), Natasha Warner (a1), Andréa Davis (a1), Andrew Carnie (a1), Diana Archangeli (a1) and Muriel Fisher (a1)...


Scottish Gaelic has been cited as providing an instance of vowel excrescence (Hall 2006). One of the defining properties of excrescent vowels is that they are phonologically inert and are not motivated by – nor do they contribute to – the syllable structure of a language. In this paper, we report on a series of experiments which tap into native speakers' intuitions of syllable structure in Scottish Gaelic. Insofar as intuitions about syllable count and syllabification reflect phonological structure, our results suggest that the relevant vowels of Scottish Gaelic are not phonologically inert, and contribute directly to native speaker intuitions involving the number of syllables and the affiliation of consonants to those syllables. However, our results also establish that the relevant vowels have an intermediate phonological status, which also distinguishes them from underlying vowels.


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This research was supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation (BCS-0921685). Preliminary results for some of our studies were presented in Davis et al. (2011). We would like to thank Boyd Robertson, the staff at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig in Teangue, Maoilios Caimbeul, the Columba 1400 Centre in Staffin for providing us with the facilities for doing this research, our 18 native speaker consultants for sharing their language with us, and Anna Bosch, Dan Brenner, Peter Brown, Ian Clayton, Micaya Clymer, Julia Fisher, Colin Gorrie, Heidi Harley, Lionel Mathieu, Chelsea Milburn, Diane Ohala, Jessamyn Schertz, Jae-Hyun Sung, Brenna Ward and audiences at the 6th Celtic Linguistics Conference and the 14th International Congress of Celtic Studies for their helpful comments and input. Thanks also to the editors, associate editor and three anonymous reviewers for very helpful feedback. All errors are our own.



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Vowel insertion in Scottish Gaelic*

  • Michael Hammond (a1), Natasha Warner (a1), Andréa Davis (a1), Andrew Carnie (a1), Diana Archangeli (a1) and Muriel Fisher (a1)...


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