University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics


Lauren Spradlin


This paper examines totes truncation, a previously undescribed morphophonological process. Totes constructions are formed by combining totes, a shortened form of the English adverb totally, and an optionally truncated and suffixed stem (e.g., totes atrosh > totally atrocious). Totes constructions are predominantly used by young adults both in speech and electronically. Using two data sets comprised of tokens pulled from electronic communication and social media posts, this work describes the construction’s distribution, outlines its formation, and discusses its distinctive morphophonology. Totes constructions are formed post-lexically (Kiparsky 1982), resulting from prosodic template mapping and maximization (McCarthy and Prince 1986, Weeda 1992) and often end in unattested, or “creative” consonant clusters resulting from the deletion of extratemplatic material. Some totesed forms pose problems for traditional theories of English phonotactics, especially those that implicitly conflate the notions of ‘unattested’ and ‘illicit.’ By setting aside this categorical classification, this work offers an account of totes constructions’ unique phonotactics and explores its implications for phonological theory. Totesed forms’ creative coda clusters are unattested in un-totesed English, but adhere to English’s sonority hierarchy, indicating that totesers are able to distinguish between a language’s idiosyncratic phonotactic accidental gaps and cross- linguistic universals, and that they are willing to flout unprincipled co-occurrence restrictions, as long as creative forms exhibit well-formed sonority contours. Additionally noteworthy is the disproportionate presence of word-final alveopalatal consonants in the data. 180 of 618 stems (29.1%) end in an alveopalatal consonant, as opposed English in general, where alveopalatals occur only 1.86% of the time in any position (Dewey 1970). This preponderance of palatalization is argued to be due to the convergence of three factors: totesers targeting base words with underlying alveopalatals for truncation, phonologically-conditioned palatalization, and affective palatalization. Both types of palatalization are widely attested cross- linguistically (Kochetov & Alderete 2010, Chen 1973, Bhat 1978, Ohala 1994, Nichols 1971), but totes constructions may be the first documented systematic use of affective palatalization in English.