In this paper we use morphological compounding to probe English speakers’ intuitions about the phonological goodness of long-distance vowel and consonant identity. The compound type under investigation is a class of insult we refer to as shitgibbons, and we report the results of three online surveys in which speakers rated novel shitgibbons which did or did not instantiate long-distance harmonies. We compare shitgibbon harmony preferences with the frequency of segmental harmony in English compounds more generally, and conclude that the lexicon displays both vowel and consonant harmony. We also attribute the lack of productive consonant harmony in shitgibbons to attested cross-linguistic harmony patterns.
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I study phonology, language acquisition, constraint-based grammars, and other things. Photo credit: J. Craft.