Exceptions to the SSP: Evidence from Ottawa for a Metatheoretical Approach
Marie Klopfenstein [+]
Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
Ottawa is an Algonquian language spoken by an estimated 8,000 people from southern Ontario to northern Michigan. It is one of several dialects of Ojibwe, including Severn Ojibwe, Algonquin and Northwestern Ojibwe. This chapter concerns the Ottawa dialect specifically. It is known by other names, including Odawa or Nishbaabemwin by its speakers, which means ‘Indian language.’ Ottawa’s phonology includes seventeen consonants, seven oral vowels, and four long nasal vowels. It also features vowel syncope and when combined with Ottawa’s system of inflectional morphology using prefixes and suffixes, allows for a variety of consonant clusters both syllable-initially and finally. In Ottawa, metrically weak vowels tend to be deleted. Standard feet consist of two syllables, one weak and one strong, respectively. The Sonority Sequencing Principle (SSP) proposes that the syllable nucleus is the peak of sonority within the syllable, with progressively decreasing sonority values in the onset and coda, if present. Because of Ottawa’s vowel syncope and inflectional morphology, there are many examples of syllables that violate the latter aspect of the SSP. While it is well-known that languages like English and Russian also violate the SSP in some of their possible syllable structures, this chapter will examine Ottawa, a less commonly studied language, for any support it can lend to the various approaches that have been proposed to account for exceptions to the SSP.