Breit – Phonology at the Interface with Morphosyntax

Course outline

This course will explore the Morphosyntax—Phonology interface from the phonological side of things. At the outset, we will discuss the architecture of the Language Faculty, the interfaces and modularity. Against this backdrop we will then adopt a Distributed Morphology (DM) approach to Morphosyntax and the Morphosyntax—Phonology interface and critique DM’s mechanism of phonological readjustment rules, leaving us with two types of theoretical options: theories which allow allomorph selection within phonology, and theories which allow no morphosyntactic information in phonology. We will explore these further looking at a number of phenomena which seem to show interaction across the interface and how different approaches deal with these. Most prominently, we will look at Initial Consonant Mutation in the Celtic languages, which will seem intractable for theories that do not admit any morphosyntacic information in phonology at first but which we will then develop a strictly modular theory of which we can show to actually offer new insights and advantages.


This is a relatively advanced introduction to phonological interface issues. It will be assumed that students have some prior knowledge of modern approaches to phonology and syntax, such as they might be gained from a typical first-year Introduction to Phonology/Syntax course. Some previous knowledge of morphology will be useful but is not required, and a lack thereof should not discourage you from taking the course.

As part of this course you will come across a wide range of different theories (e.g. Minimalism, Distributed Morphology, Rule-Based Phonology, Optimality Theory, Government Phonology, Element Theory, …). You will not be expected to be particularly familiar with any of these, and you should not feel any apprehension because of this. We will aim to cover enough of each of these theories during class so that everyone with some basic background in phonology and syntax should be able to follow, irrespective of the specific theories you might or might not be familiar with.

Readings & Materials

We will mainly be working off of a handout, which will be posted here some time before the start of this years’ EGG. It will be useful if you can bring a printed copy of this to class with you (or have it on a tablet where you can mark it up), but some copies will also be provided for anyone who may not be able to bring their own copy or might decide to come to class more spontaneously!