Research

My research focuses on several key topics within metrical stress theory, one of the major subfields of theoretical phonology. Metrical stress theory addresses the phenomenon of stress and accent patterns in natural language, adopting the perspective that such patterns are the manifestations of rhythmic organization. Like many who work in the field, my research is typological. The goal is to discover the principles that organize the stress and accent patterns of natural language, based on conclusions drawn from the empirical study of a wide range of languages. Even when considering the simplest types, there are unexpected gaps in the stress patterns that arise among the world's languages. It is just as important to account for the gaps as it is to account for the patterns that are actually attested.

Given the typological orientation of my research, each of my individual projects has necessarily touched on a range of issues central to metrical stress theory. Most focus, however, on one of the following.

Metrical and Prosodic Structure: Beginning with my earliest work, one the main features of my research is that it challenges standard assumptions about the possible relationships of prosodic categories to one another and to the metrical grid. In particular I have argued that feet must be allowed to overlap (share a syllable) and that the strong positions in feet do not automatically correspond to strong positions on the metrical grid (are not automatically stressed). Adopted these assumptions helps to predict a more accurate typology of quantity-insensitive binary stress patterns and it helps to avoid pathological predictions like the Odd-Parity Input Problem.

Edge Asymmetries: Much of my work has addressed asymmetries in preferences about the presence or absence of stress at the edges of prosodic domains. Smaller prosodic domains like the syllable and the foot, as well as larger prosodic domains like the prosodic word, prefer that their initial elements be stressed and that their final elements be stressless. These preference help to account for a wide range of phenomena, including word-final stress avoidance, quantity-sensitivity, and rhythmic lengthening.

Directional Orientation: Stress patterns have directional orientations in that they seem to be constructed from one edge of a word working towards the opposite edge. Alignment constraints create directionality effects by requiring particular edges of prosodic categories to coincide. In recent work, I proposed a new formulation for Alignment constraints that preserves their ability to produce directionality effects while avoiding problematic predictions like the Midpoint Pathology. The new formulation also helps to provide a general approach to trisyllabic accent windows like those found in ancient Greek and Latin and many other languages, including, for the most part English.