Accorciamenti, Hypocoristics, and Foot Structure: Against the Ternary Foot in Italian

Eric Halicki


This paper challenges the ternary foot as a possible foot type in Italian. This is contrary to the foot inventories proposed by a number of authors including Marotta (1997), Bafile (1996), Thornton (1996), and Nespor (1993). Within an Optimality Theoretic framework, it is shown that Foot-Binarity must be an undominated constraint in the language in order to account for both the limited distribution of the dactyl and optional secondary stress after antepenultimate main stress (as reported by Camilli 1965, Malagoli 1968, Lepschy & Lepschy 1988, and Lepschy 1992). It is argued that the dactylic effect is a result of final syllable extrametricality as suggested in analyses by Den Os & Kager (1986), Sluyters (1990), Jacobs (1994), and D'Imperio & Rosenthall (1999). The second half of the paper refutes the most compelling evidence for the ternary foot, namely tri-syllabic hypocoristic forms (Thornton 1996). All Italian truncation is shown to be consistent with undominated Foot-Binarity. It is furthermore argued that Spanish hypocoristic formation (Lipski 1995 and Piñeros 2000a, b) differs from its Italian counterpart in that in the former, Contiguity-BT is low-ranked while in the latter it is undominated.


Italian; hypocoristic; foot structure; Optimality Theory

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