Academic journal article Southwest Journal of Linguistics

Coronal and Velar Softening in Spanish: Theoretical, Historical and Empirical Evidence of Lexicalization

Academic journal article Southwest Journal of Linguistics

Coronal and Velar Softening in Spanish: Theoretical, Historical and Empirical Evidence of Lexicalization

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT. Voicing assimilation, phonological deletion, lateral and nasal depalatalization, diphthongization and coronal and velar softening are still largely assumed to be productive morphophonological alternations in Spanish, the result of the application of phonological rules or the operation of constraints of different ranks. Nonetheless, a number of studies suggest that at least diphthongization and nasal and lateral depalatalization may be unproductive in Spanish. The current study argues on theoretical, historical and empirical grounds that coronal and velar softening alternations in Spanish are also lexicalized, and are not part of any rule or constraint based system. *

INTRODUCTION. Data from Spanish and research done in the field of Spanish phonology and morphology are often cited as evidence of alternations such as voicing assimilation, phonological deletion, lateral and nasal depalatalization, diphthongization and coronal and velar softening in this language. It is still widely assumed these are productive morphophonological alternations in Spanish, the result of rules (Harris 1969, 1983, Goldsmith 1990, Kenstowicz 1994, Cole 1995), or in more recent terms (Prince & Smolensky 1993), of an Optimality Theoretic constraint ranking. Nonetheless, a number of studies suggest that several types of alternations, for example diphthongization (Bybee & Pardo 1981) and nasal and lateral depalatalization (Pensado 1997), may be unproductive and therefore lexicalized in Spanish. The focus of the present study is coronal and velar softening in Spanish. I argue that coronal and velar softening alternations lack productivity in Spanish, both phonological and morphophonological, and should be added to the list of lexicalized alternations in this language. That is, I argue that unlike true phonological processes, coronal and velar softening alternations in Spanish are lexically bound, they are not phonetically conditioned and, as suggested by the results of a nonce probe task reported on in this study, they will not consistently be applied by native speakers to borrowed words and neologisms.

1. ALTERNATIONS IN SPANISH. The data in 1-5 are representative of voicing assimilation, phonological deletion, nasal and lateral depalatalization, diphthongization and coronal and velar softening in Spanish. Much discussion of these alternations can be found in Harris (1969) and subsequent work (Harris 1983) as well as Hooper (1976), Hudson (1974, 1980), Spencer (1988) and Wieczorek (1990), among others. Throughout the present study, the dialect under consideration is Castilian Spanish, characterized by the use of the zeta ( before and before pronounced /[theta]/, a voiceless interdental fricative).

(1) Voicing assimilation

    a. rec[[beta]]ir      rece[p]cion     rece[p]tor      rece[p]tivo
       `receive'          `reception'     `receiver'      `receptive'
    b. conce[[beta]]ir    conce[p]cion    conce[p]tivo    conce[p]to
       `conceive'         `conception'    `conceptive'    `concept'

Harris's (1969) analysis assumes that [p] (a voiceless bilabial stop) is underlying and is laxed to [b] (a voiced bilabial stop) by rule, and that the bases are diacritically marked [+S], mnemonic for SPECIAL, meaning they undergo rules that [-S] lexical items do not. Compare 1a to 1b.

(2) Phonological deletion

    a. esculpir /eskulp+ir/       vs.    escultor /eskulp+tor/
       `to sculpt'                       `sculptor'
    b. absorber/absorb+er/        vs.    absorcion /absorb+[theta]jon/
       `to absorb'                       `absorption'

For the data in 2, Harris (1969) assumes the bases/absorb/and/skulpt/, in which the final consonants are deleted by a cluster simplification rule.

(3) Nasal and lateral depalatalization

    a. desde[n]      vs.    desde[n]ar
       `disdain'            `to disdain'
    b. … 
Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.