Spanish-English Contrasts: A Course in Spanish Linguistics

By M. Stanley Whitley | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
Phonological rules

3.0 Types of rules: Categorical and variable, general and dialectal.

The pronunciation of phonemes changes in a fairly regular fashion that depends on the phonetic environment. For example, in both English and Spanish any vowel (V) becomes somewhat nasalized (Ṽ) when a nasal consonant (N) follows, as in moon and mundo. Thus, /múndo/ → "mṹndo". The general way to formulate such a process or rule is to use an arrow for 'becomes', a slash for 'when in the environment of', and a blank that specifies the position where the change occurs. Thus, 'a vowel becomes nasalized when preceding a nasal' may be written as follows:

V → Ṽ / ____N

Alternatively, feature notation (v. 1.1.5) could be adopted as shown in figure 3.1, either in the more traditional format as in (a) or in the autosegmental representation as in (b), which portrays the reassociation of the vowel with its neighbor's feature "±nasal" operating here on a separate (autonomous) tier.1

The arrow-slash-blank notation is also used for the insertion or deletion of sounds. As noted in the preceding chapter (v. 2.3), Spanish inserts /e/ in front of an initial sC (cluster of s plus consonant) so that the /s/ forms the coda of a new syllable: skiesquí /es.kí/. This EPENTHESIS rule can be stated as follows: 'where there was nothing (Ø) preceding sC, insert /e/':

Ø→ e / ____ sC

Yet this is too general as it stands, for it will insert /e/ before every sC cluster, giving not only skiesquí but also chispa → *chiespa and asco → *aesco. (Recall that the asterisk means 'wrong', v. 0.2.2.) The rule must be confined or constrained so as to apply just

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