An Optimality Theory account of the D-Effect in Ahtna

  • Margaret Lyster University of Victoria


The D-effect is a well-studied phonological alternation in Dene languages and occurs when the D- classifier prefix precedes a consonant-initial verb stem. This paper analyzes the D-effect in Ahtna using the framework of Optimality Theory. In this paper, it is demonstrated that in Ahtna coalescence and syllable structure are used to preserve the input segments and their features in the output. It is demonstrated that a pattern that at first glance appears to be deletion, is another form of coalescence known as ‘vacuous coalescence.’ In Ahtna, full coalescence being the fusion of two segments without loss of features occurs when the resulting segment is permitted in the inventory of Ahtna. If this is not possible, then Ahtna uses syllabification and vacuous coalescence to preserve the segments. This analysis further adds data to the prediction of the D-effect in Ahtna for the patterns found in the language.

Keywords: D-effect; Dene languages; coalescence; Optimality Theory