An auto-segmental look at Hungarian vowel harmony

Harry Mürk


This paper proposes an AUTO-SEGMENTAL model to account for vowel harmony in Hungarian. A number of anomalies to VH are presented which are only accounted for with great difficulty by the linear model. However, no implications are made concerning the failings of a linear analysis, rather an alternate solution is presented. This solution posits a system for Hungarian which consists of three phonologic levels called tiers. The three tiers in Hungarian are:

the segmental tier
the rounding tier (which produces rounding harmony)
and the backness tier (which produces backness harmony).

The model presented here shows how vowel segments are dominated by the feature in the rounding tier which in turn is dominated by the backness tier. Although the data require the postulating of an abstract segment this abstract vowel is not crucial to the success of the AS model (recall that VH under a linear model crucially depended on the existence of abstract segments). Certain details of the model itself and certain data were not examined in great detail if it was felt that this scrutiny could not provide any additional insights. It is hoped, however, that eventually all of these details will be looked at in the detail they deserve. It is noteworthy that the AS model will automatically account for the things that in a linear model had to be marked as exceptions.


Hungarian; vowel harmony; backness; roundness

Full Text:


Copyright (c)