Czech –(e)k/ka at the Phonology–Morphology Interface

Christina Y. Bethin, SUNY-Stony Brook

This paper looks at –(e)k and –ka suffixed Czech diminutives of proper names in the framework of Optimality Theory (McCarthy and Prince 1993, Kager 1998) and shows that quantity contrasts, once phonologically motivated, have been reanalyzed as subject to Output–Output evaluation (Benua 1997), and specifically to Base–Truncation correspondence.

In the creation of primary diminutives from common and proper nouns, e.g. sklep–sklipek 'cellar', noha–nozhka 'foot, leg', Tomash–Tomashek, Marie–Marka, there is a process of stem vowel lengthening before –(e)k, e.g., telefon–telefonek, Shimon–Shimunek, and not before –ka , e.g., ryba–rybka 'fish', Lucie–Lucka. In Czech hypocoristics, however, we find exceptions of two types: 1) some forms suffixed by –ek do not show the expected stem vowel lengthening, as in Shimon–Shima–Shimek, and 2) some –ka suffixed female names appear to have stem vowel shortening as in Cecilie–Cila–Cilka. In secondary diminutives suffixed by –ichek and –ichka, –inek and –inka, –enek and –enka, there is significant evidence that stem vowel length is not affected, e.g., knizhka–knizhechka 'book', peshinka–peshinechka 'path'. In proper names, however, the secondary diminutives appear to be formed from nicknames, e.g., Jan–Jenik– Jenichek, Barbora–Bara–Barushka, and some show an inexplicable stem vowel shortening.

These derivations are analyzed as a special case of phonology–morphology interaction in which both, the absence of lengthening in primary hypocoristics and the inexplicable shortening of stem vowels in some secondary derivations, are shown to be due to an Output–Output correspondence of a special type, Base–Truncation. This provides support for the theoretical position that the phonology–morphology interface in the grammar of Czech requires a mechanism for enforcing faithful correspondence between morphemes/words, in addition to a faithfulness constraint in the usual input–output evaluation of candidate sets.

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