In the right side of the image below, it is implied that constituents up to the level of the word are considered "postlexical" and those below it are "lexical".

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I can easily imagine that the prosodic word and the elements of which it is comprised are lexical, insofar as words are part of a lexicon. But what is meant by post-lexical, i.e. "after-lexical". I'm not sure I understand precisely what Nespor & Vogel are getting at with this division. Presumably something about speech processing/production...?

1 Answer 1


This is terminology from the theory of Lexical Phonology, which was popular at the time. In that theory, morphology and some parts of phonology are bundled together into a module called "Lexicon", which is responsible for creating words (stringing together morphemes and sorting out their pronunciation). Syntax happens later, and that is where words are assembled into utterances. After that, the phonology gets another pass at applying, where that last round of rule application is called "post-lexical phonology". Anything that applied between words was necessarily "post-lexical", because it was assumed that syntax come after the lexicon.

  • Thanks. Presumably this hierarchy does not necessarily imply any of the tenants of Lexical Phonology. In which case, the distinction between lexical and post-lexical is irrelevant for those not operating in that theory. Correct?
    – Teusz
    Aug 24, 2016 at 15:18
  • @Teusz The difference between lexical and post-lexical is relevant for everyone who can tell apart phonemes and allophones.
    – Greg Lee
    Aug 24, 2016 at 15:29
  • 1
    The only aspect of their hierarchy that is necessarily about LP is the name and dichotomy "(post)lexical". Although it happens that the postlexical units are not well motivated in the face of the alternative, which is that rules refer directly to syntactic relationships. So the hierarchy is there for people who reject the possibility that phonology has any access to syntactic structure.
    – user6726
    Aug 24, 2016 at 15:53

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