Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

G. Hubert Matthews


This thesis is a technical description of the phonological rules and processes of Tepehuan, with many examples in the practical orthography. By taking the position that vowel length and open syllables are underlying in SET, I predict accent placement on all forms. In addition, phonetic forms of stems are predicted by a set of rules coordinating with accent. This phonological system has the result of reducing the length of words and highlighting their accent centers.

All final single vowels drop; this reduces the length of the word by one syllable, and makes the penultimate syllable into a closed final syllable. The accent rule chooses the heaviest of the first two syllables to highlight, the heaviest being the first vowel sequence, and the next heaviest being a closed final syllable. A rule then deletes the vowels in the syllable immediately following accent, and in alternate syllables moving rightward. This has the effect of shortening the word by one or two syllables.

h in syllables prevents the aforesaid vowel dropping rules from working, but h itself drops, shortening words by a syllable, in one rule leaving a vowel sequence, in another rule deleting a vowel as well as h.

Geminate vowel sequences in unaccented syllables are shortened to single vowels in pronunciation. Diphthongs produced across morpheme boundaries or before a morpheme boundary followed by a sonorant drop their lowest member, leaving a single vowel.

A phonetic rule makes ends of syllables and words easier to pronounce by devoicing and deobstruentizing segments in those positions. Rules convert some high or mid vowels to a, which is the most unmarked vowel; difficult diphthong combinations are simplified. All of these adjustments make speech easier and faster.

These conclusions were made possible through a theory that assumes an organized system for all languages. Historical and comparative data were used as a resource for hypothesizing about the underlying forms of syllables and phonemes and words. Many historical forms and phonological rules which were posited by Bascom are in fact present and working in the SET system today.

Included in

Linguistics Commons