ICELANDIC VOWEL LENGTH AND GOVERNING RELATIONS IN PHONOLOGY
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The present paper intends to voice a series of critical observations on the vowel length in Icelandic in the light of Government Phonology. Vowels in Modern Icelandic can be long in stressed syllables when followed by appropriate consonant combinations. A Government Phonology perspective allows us to regard the length as a metrical phenomenon with vowels being long in stressed open syllables. Accordingly, the shortness of a vowel indicates that it closes with a coda consonant. The vowel length regularity is used to study the nature of the consonant combination which follows the stressed nucleus. In line with a long standing tradition, Government Phonology maintains that the consonants which can be supported in the coda position depend on the nature of the following onset. In brief, the onset should be stronger or more complex than the coda. The Icelandic facts only partly conform to this principle. We investigate a number of cases where the predictions are not borne out and where paradoxes emerge. The rhyme-onset governing domain is contrasted with the interonset relationship and partly also with branching onsets. It is argued that the classical formulation of the complexity condition does not provide a fully reliable tool for establishing the relations that adjacent consonants contract.
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