Harmonic domains and synchronization in typically and atypically developing Hebrew-speaking children

Outi Bat-El*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper presents a comparative study of typical and atypical consonant harmony (onset-onset place harmony), with emphasis on (i) the size of the harmonic domain, (ii) the position of the harmonic domain within the prosodic word, and (iii) the maximal size of the prosodic word that exhibits consonant harmony. The data, drawn from typically and atypically developing Hebrew-speaking children, reveal the following characteristics: (i) The harmonic domain is usually limited to two consonants in typical harmony, but may span to up to four consonants in atypical harmony. (ii) The harmonic domain usually aligns with the left edge of the prosodic word in typical harmony, but may also align with the right edge of the prosodic word in atypical harmony. (iii) Typical consonant harmony is usually limited to maximally trisyllabic productions, while atypical harmony is also found in quadrisyllabic productions. In addition, the sporadic variation characterizing early typical speech appears in advanced stages in atypical speech. With reference to the hierarchical structure of the word, these distinctions are analyzed here in terms of (a-)synchronization between the development of the prosodic word layer (number of syllables) and the segmental layer. The formal analysis is couched within the framework of Optimal Domains Theory (Cole, J., Kisseberth, C., 1994. An optimal domain theory of harmony. Studies in the Linguistic Sciences 24, 1-13, ROA-22; Cole, J., Kisseberth, C., 1995a. Paradoxical strength conditions in harmony systems, ROA-48; Cole, J., Kisseberth, C., 1995b. Nasal harmony in optimal domain theory, ROA-49; Cole, J., Kisseberth, C., 1996. Restricting multi-level constraint evaluation: opaque rule interaction in Yawelmani vowel harmony, ROA-98; Cassimjee, F., Kisseberth, C., 1997. Optimal domain theory and Bantu tonology: a case study from Isixhosa and Shingazidja, ROA-176; Cassimjee, F., Kisseberth, C., 1998. Tonal variation across Emakhuwa dialects, ROA-289; Cassimjee, F., Kisseberth C., 1999. A conspiracy argument for optimality theory: Emakhuwa dialectoloy, ROA-331), a branch of optimality theory (Prince, A., Smolensky, P., 1993. Optimality theory: Constraint Interaction in Generative Grammar. Ms. Rutgers University and University of Colorado, Boulder).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-135
Number of pages19
JournalLanguage Sciences
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Mar 2009


  • Consonant harmony
  • Dyspraxic speech
  • Hebrew
  • Language acquisition
  • Synchronization
  • Variation


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