Vowel interaction and related phenomena in Basque and the nature of morphophonological knowledge

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Basque possesses a number of complex and very productive alternations aecting vowel sequences. In generative phonology these alternations have been considered a textbook example of extrinsic rule order (cf. Kenstowicz and Kisseberth 1979; Kenstowicz 1994). Lakoff (1993) shows that the Basque facts can be analyzed within his cognitive phonology model without employing the psychologically highly problematic mechanism of rule order. Lakoff's model, however, contains abstract levels of representation for which there appears to be no empirical evidence. In this article I argue that the generalizations that Basque speakers must make can and should be expressed as correspondence among surface forms. Both derivations and underlying representations can be dispensed with. I furthermore show that postulating abstract underlying representations results in both incorrect predictions and contradictory analyses of the Basque alternations. Recent work within the generative phonological tradition has demonstrated that some of the most complex mechanisms of this theoretical model, such as the cycle and underspeciRcation, lack all empirical justiRcation (see Cole 1995; Steriade 1995). The fundamental construct of underlying representations with assumed psychological reality would appear to be no better motivated on empirical grounds.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)33-56
Number of pages24
JournalCognitive Linguistics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1999


  • Basque
  • lexical correspon-dences
  • lexical representations
  • morphophonology
  • phonology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language


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