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Words with /st/ and /ts/ as final sequences of a five-positional final sequence

This topic deals with five-positional word-final sequences, all of which end in /st/ or /ts/. Examples of words in which they occur are aalst/a:lst/absinthe, maaits/ma:jts/maggot, grub(worm), and ploaits(je)/plo:jts/to pick, to pluck. Some space is devoted to the question as to whether final /-st/ and /-ts/ are to be considered here as complex segments in underlying representation, a question which in answered in the negative. Word-final /-kst/, as in tekst/tɛkst/text, is also analyzed as a trisegmental sequence in underlying representation, which surfaces as a two-sided complex segment.


Some words end in a sequence of five positions, which exceeds the word maximum by two. Examples are given below:

Example 1

Examples of words which exceed the word maximum by two constraint
a. Ending in a long vocalic sequence + /l/ + /s/ + /t/
aalst /a:lst/ absinthe
b. Ending in a long vocalic sequence + /j/ + /t/ + /s/
laaits(je) /la:jts/ to laugh
maaits /ma:jts/ maggot, grub(worm)
skraaits /skra:jts/ long-tailed skua; tall and scrawny person
boaits /bo:jts/ tub, barrel
loaits /lo:jts/ look (in one's eyes)
ploaits(je) /plo:jts/ to pick, to pluck
koaits(je) /ko:jts/ to cook
tsjoeits /tsju:jts/ call for chasing chickens

Subtracting /t/ and /s/ from these words yields a well-formed outcome.

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The words laaits(je)/la:jts/to laugh, maaits/ma:jts/maggot, grub(worm), and skraaits/skra:jts/long-tailed skua; tall and scrawny person have variants with the falling diphthong /aj/ (instead of the long vowel + glide sequence /a:j/). The result is a less exceptional, four-positional word-final sequence.

These words are exceptional, and problematic, in having two extrasyllabic segments. Sequences of /s/ + a (voiceless) plosive act as single units or, put differently, as complex segments. It is therefore tempting to analyze /-st/ and /-ts/ as a unit in underlying representation here. There are, however, several arguments that these sequences become complex segments through phonological processing, and that they are sequences in underlying representation (see complex segments as single units). This approach then in not a way out.

The words ending in a short vowel + the obstruent sequence /-{k/p}st/ have two extrasyllabic final segments as well; they are enumerated below:

Example 2

Words ending in a sequence of three obstruents
takst /takst/ regular, habitual quantity
drekst /drɛkst/ immediately, at once
tekst /tɛkst/ text
gewikst /ɡəvɪkst/ shrewed, smart; robust, sturdy
gewykst /ɡəvikst/ shrewed, smart; robust, sturdy
gewûpst /ɡəvupst/ robust, sturdy

In the above words in (2), the fricative /s/ is neatly surrounded by two (voiceless) plosives, in line with the general preference for obstruents forming a sequence that they do not agree in continuancy, so that a sequence of two plosives or two fricatives is less likely than a plosive-fricative or fricative-plosive sequence (see onset: sequences of two obstruents). It is only final /-t/ which is outside the three-positional rhyme. Subtracting it yields a form ending in a short vowel + the obstruent sequence /-{ks/ps}/, an acceptable configuration.

The obstruent sequences /-ks/ and /-ps/ consist of a voiceless plosive + /s/, so in principle they can act as complex segments. How many complex segments do the words in the example above end up with, then? Does /s/ form a complex segment with both the preceding and the following voiceless plosive, in a triple structure? That /-kst/ and /-pst/ act as one complex segment cannot be shown by degemination facts, for neither /kst-/ nor /pst-/ occur in word-initial position. Schwa-epenthesis, however, sheds a clear light on the issue. The words in (2) do not allow for epenthesis in the final cluster; tekst and gewûpst, for instance, cannot be realized as either [*tɛksət]/[*ɡəvupsət] or [*tɛkəst]/[*ɡəvupəst]. This testifies to /-kst/ and /-pst/ surfacing as complex segments (with an exceptional triple structure).

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