Evidence for Sonority-Driven Stress



We argue that there is no adequate evidence for ‘sonority-driven stress’, building on Shih (2018a,b), and disagreeing with Kenstowicz (1997), de Lacy (2002a, 2004, 2006), and others. More precisely, we argue that there is no phonological mechanism that induces metrical structure to deviate from its default position for reasons that involve the direct interaction of segmental sonority and foot form. After reviewing the history of sonority-driven stress theory, we identify two broad issues with extant evidence: the lack of methodological reliability, and misattribution of cause. We argue that impressionistic descriptions of sonority-driven stress are not reliable, in the technical sense of evidentiary validity. We further argue that apparent sonority-sensitivity in foot form is a side-effect of either allophony or minor syllable behavior.


phonology, metrical structure, sonority-driven stress, sonority, stress, evidence


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Author Biographies

Shu-hao Shih, UCLA

I am a Visiting Assistant Professor at the Linguistics Department, UCLA.  I graduated from Rutgers University in 2018. My research deals with the determinants of metrical structure, with particular focus on non-moraic influences (e.g. sonority, tone, defective prosodic structure).

Paul de Lacy, Rutgers University

I am a Professor Emeritus (retired) affiliated with Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.




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