Marc van Oostendorp
In the chapters 2 and 3 we analyse the contrast between tense and lax (or long versus short) vowels in Standard Dutch. It is claimed that this difference can only be described in a satisfactory way when using the feature Retracted Tongue Root (RTR). We also posit a constraint which relates this feature to the open versus closed nature of a syllable. Very strong evidence for this relation is drawn from languages such as Andalusian Spanish and Eastern Javanese which combine the open-closed contrast with vowel harmony on the feature RTR. Also a dialect like Tilburg Dutch is of interest, because it has both a tense-lax and a long-short contrast. In this dialect we can also see that vowel length correpsonds to +RTR not to -RTR, as is usually assumed on the basis of Standard Dutch.
In chapters 4 and 5 we discuss Dutch schwa. This vowel has to be analysed as almost empty, both from a phonetic and phonological point of view. This featurelessness corresponds to several special properties of this vowel: it is the reduction vowel, the epenthetic vowel and as an underlying vowel it only supports syllables with a very simple structure, viz. a simple onset and a coda in which we only find a sonorant consonant. It is shown that all of these properties are indeed directly dependent on the emptiness of schwa.
In chapter 6 the analysis of Dutch schwa is applied to a number of other languages, especially French and Norwegian. French schwa allows a complex onset but no coda and therefore seems markedly different from its Dutch counterpart. Norwegian has both a French (eple) and a Dutch schwa (tiger). These schwas however still have a different status in the language: we do not find words such as *katrel. These differences between the three languages are described in terms of independently motivated constraints and on top of this it is shown that the three languages still show a few very remarkable similarities.
In chapter 7 we discuss the occurrence of vowels in extracephalic position. The main topic of discussion here is a striking alternation between the high vowel [i] and the syllable [j@] we find in Rotterdam Dutch monomorphemic forms, second person singular clitics and diminutive forms. The competition between these two forms can be described in a theory of constraint conflict such as Optimality Theory. It appears that i acts as a better nuclear head and that the form with schwa only surfaces as a realisation of the full vowel is blocked. A comparison of the Rotterdam process to Sievers' Law in Gothic additionally provides us with extra evidence against a length analysis of Standard Dutch.
Chapter 8 gives an overview of the family of constraints which form the backbone of most analyses in the thesis: the family of projection constraints. All of these constraint connect the occurrence or non-occurrence of a certain feature to the occurrence or non- occurrence of certain types of prosodic structure. It is shown that the notion of a constraint family provides us with an elegant and satisfying metatheory of phonological projection.