Events

(Joint work with Lee Bickmore, SUNY Albany)

Rutooro is a Bantu language of Uganda that lacks lexical tone. Instead, prominence in Rutooro is marked with a High tone (H) on the penultimate syllable of the phonological phrase (φ-phrase). Like many languages in the family, syntactic XPs reliably correspond to φ-phrases; however, we find a previously unattested pattern in the prosody of Rutooro adnominal phrases. Head nouns are marked H when they combine with strong determiners, adjectives with augment vowels, and full RCs. In contrast, nouns do not bear an H tone when they combine with weak determiners, augment-less adjectives, and reduced RCs. We propose that the distribution of H tones serves as a diagnostic for whether an adnominal is generated in a DP-internal or external position. Reduced object RCs with overt subjects are a special case: the head of the reduced object RC bears an unexpected H tone, while the subject is all-Low despite the fact that it is a self-contained XP. We demonstrate why these data challenge prominent theories of the syntax-prosody interface, ultimately concluding that the attested phrasing repairs a prosodic ambiguity that could otherwise point to illicit syntactic constituency.