Morphemic Tier Hypothesis

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The Morphemic Tier Hypothesis (MTH) is a hypothesis first introduced into the theory of Autosegmental phonology in McCarthy (1981) which entails the claim that every morpheme making up a word is assigned a separate tier, i.e., a separate and autonomous level of representation. This hypothesis is mainly proposed to circumvent the No-Crossing Constraint which says that association lines may not cross.


the Arabic word katab is made out of the triliteral root ktb 'write', the perfective active morpheme a, and the template CVCVC. If the morphemes ktb and a were represented at a single tier, association of these morphemes to the template CVCVC would result in a violation of the No-Crossing Constraint, as is shown in (i). By representing them at autonomous tiers as in (ii), this problem is solved:

 (i) *	C V C V	C	* C V C V C
        | | |   |         |   |   |
	k a t	b	  k   t   b  a

(ii)	    a
           / \
	C V C V	C
        |   |   |
	k   t	b


Utrecht Lexicon of Linguistics


  • Goldsmith, J. 1990. Autosegmental and Metrical Phonology, Blackwell, Oxford.
  • McCarthy, J. 1986. OCP Effects: gemination and antigemination, Linguistic Inquiry 17, pp. 207-264
  • McCarthy, J. 1981. A prosodic Theory of Nonconcatenative Morphology, Linguistic Inquiry 12, pp. 373-418
  • Spencer, A. 1991. Morphological Theory, Blackwell, Oxford.