Peter Ara Guekguezian

University of Southern California
Ph.D. Student, Department of Linguistics

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Research Areas

The overarching question that my research programme investigates is how phonology and syntax communicate inside the word; specifically, my research explores the correspondence between syntactic cyclicity and prosodic recursion in words. My work focuses primarily on the verbal domain, including the syntax and semantics of event structure and templatic morphology and reduplication in verbs. Many of the data I analyze come from first-hand fieldwork on endangered languages, including Chukchansi Yokuts (Penutian: California) and Saisiyat (Austronesian: Taiwan).

Phonology/Syntax Interface inside the Word

Languages of Focus: Chukchansi Yokuts and Creek/Muskogee

My in-progress dissertation investigates the relationship between phases in the syntax and prosodic domains in the phonology, focusing on verbal morphology. A verb that spans two phases in syntax may be comprised of two recursively layered prosodic words in phonology. The first phase, vP, expands dynamically to the highest verbal head, whose complement contains the verb root and becomes the first spellout domain. The verb root moves upward out of vP before cyclic spellout but leaves a lower copy, which is sent to phonology at the first phase. A higher copy of the verb root is then spelled out at the second phase along with higher tense, mood and aspect heads. In order to match each phase of a word to a Prosodic Word (PWd) the lower and higher copies of the verb root must be contained in two separate PWds. However, if only a single exponent of the verb root is inserted to satisfy economy, these two PWds must be recursively layered: the minimal PWd contains only the verb root, while the maximal PWd contains the verb root and any higher verbal morphemes. PWd recursion can cause the appearance of templatic morphology (satisfying minimality constraints) or of an internal stress domain (satisfying footing constraints).

Syntax: Two Phases -- Phase One: {Root}; Phase Two: {Root, v, T}

Phonology: Recursive PWds -- [[Root]-v-T]

Prosodic Morphology

Languages of Focus: Chukchansi Yokuts and Saisiyat

My work on prosodic morphology focuses on templates and reduplication, and more specifically in what changes in shape and linear order are possible with such morphology. I have ascertained specific limits on the possible typologies of templates and reduplication, modeled by a restricted inventory of prosodic constraints as well as morphosyntactic structure. Templatic morphology can be epiphenomenonal of prosodic well-formedness requirements coupled with the presence of recursive prosodic structure, which is triggered by cyclic morphosyntax. Reduplicative patterns that disrupt the expected linear order of segments are better modeled using only a locality constraint demanding that identical corresponding elements in correspondence be dominated by the same prosodic unit; this model fits the attested typology better than a model using both economy and a string-based locality or positional constraint.

Syntax/Semantics of Aspect

Language of Focus: Saisiyat

My work on the aspectual event structure of verbs has focused on the interaction between the perfect and other aspectual components. Ambiguity between a bounded and an unbounded reading with the perfect comes from covert operators, whose appearance is regulated by syntactic licensing: covert elements with the [bounded] feature must be licensed by an overt element with the same value. Introducing feature licensing into the syntax of aspect allows for a richer possible semantic breadth of aspectual heads, while constraining the typology by disallowing some combinations of heads and prefering others.