Nasal Vowel Evolution in Romance

Nasal Vowel Evolution in Romance

Nasal Vowel Evolution in Romance

Nasal Vowel Evolution in Romance


This book provides a complete, comparative, nongallocentric account of nasality in all the Romance languages. It demonstrates the central role of nasality in the history of sound changes in the languages of southern Europe. In doing so, it assembles a large amount of important philological and linguistic data previously dispersed and difficult to access, and organizes it in a way that allows the author (and will allow the reader) to analyse it systematically. Two introductory chapters discuss general principles of nasality and Romance nasalization. Subsequent chapters are then devoted to each language. The author considers all the standard varieties and a substantial range of non-standard varieties, and identifies broad characteristics of vowel nasalization in Romance. In the the final chapter he makes a clear bridge between the data-rich discussion of individual languages and the isolation of language universals. This is will be the standard work in its field for many years. It will be of central interest to linguists and philologists of Romance, as well as to those concerned more generally to understand the causes, patterns, and processes of sound change.


Je n'entrerai pas dans la discussion aride et embrouillée de l'histoire des voyelles nasales.

Gaston Paris (1878: 125)

The present work addresses an aspect of historical Romance phonology which has so far lacked a general comparative treatment of any substance. Accounts of the fortunes of nasal vowels in individual Romance languages are of course not in short supply. French in particular has long exercised the curiosity of linguists, so much so that already in the 1870s the eminent French linguist Gaston Paris could sound a little weary of the subject of nasal vowel development in his native language. (It may be added that any weariness was short-lived and he engaged in lively polemical discussion on the topic on a number of later occasions.) But French is just one Romance variety amongst many which have experienced high levels of vowel nasalization, although the way in which its nasal vowels have evolved is by no means representative of what has happened elsewhere. It is hoped that the systematic comparative review which has been undertaken will help to correct this 'gallocentrism' and provide a more balanced view of nasal vowel evolution across Romance.

It is something of a truism that social and cultural factors are of no less importance in determining patterns of language change than internal structural forces. in recognition of this, attention has been paid throughout our coverage to the nature and possible impact of extralinguistic determinants on nasal vowel evolution. Also, the treatment of each branch of Romance has been prefaced with a brief outline of the external linguistic history of the area concerned in order to set the internal developments in an appropriate perspective.

A further aim of this study is to make a modest contribution to the wider phonological debate on the universals of vowel nasality. Since the 1960s, a substantial amount of work has been carried out on the characteristics and effects of vowel nasalization. in the main, the data used have been synchronic in nature, for understandable reasons, but the probative value of diachronic material has always been recognized. With its long and well-attested history, Romance is uniquely placed to add to that material, and it is hoped that the present work will prove of some interest to general phonologists who wish to know more of the diversity and complexity of nasal vowel evolution in Romance beyond the familiar developments found in French.

Finally, it is a pleasure to be able to express my gratitude to those who have . . .

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