Is word-level recursion actually recursion?


There is a longstanding debate in the literature about if, and where, recursion occurs in prosodic structure. While there are clear cases of genuine recursion at the phrase level and above, there are very few convincing cases of word-level recursion. Most cases are—by definition—not recursive and instead best analyzed as different constituents (e.g., the Composite Group, Prosodic Word Group, etc.). We show that two convincing cases of prosodic word-level recursion can easily be reanalyzed without recursion if phonology and prosody are evaluated cyclically at syntactic phase boundaries. Our analysis combines phase-based spell-out and morpheme-specific subcategorization frames of Cophonologies by Phase with Tri-P Mapping prosodic structure building. We show that apparent word-level recursion is due to cyclic spell-out, and non-isomorphisms between syntactic and prosodic structure are due to morpheme-specific prosodic requirements.

Taylor Miller
Hannah Sande
Publication date: 
May 30, 2021
Publication type: 
Recent Publication
Miller, T. L., & Sande, H. (2021). Is Word-Level Recursion Actually Recursion?. Languages, 6(2), 1-27.