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Title:An Effort-Based Approach to Consonant Lenition
Authors:Robert Kirchner
Comment:1998 UCLA dissertation
Abstract:An Effort-Based Approach to Consonant Lenition

Robert Kirchner


Despite the pervasiveness of lenition in the sound systems of natural

language, this class of patterns has eluded adequate characterization

in previous theories of phonology. Specifically, previous theories

have failed to capture formally the phonetic unity of the various

lenition processes (e.g. degemination, voicing, spirantization,

debuccalization, deletion), or to account for the environments in

which lenition typically occurs.

I present a unified approach to consonant lenition, wherein particular

lenition patterns arise from Optimality Theoretic conflict between a

principle of effort minimization (which I style LAZY), and faithfulness

to auditory features, in combination with (perceptually-based)

fortition constraints, building upon the proposals of Jun (1995) and

Flemming (1995). I further demonstrate that this effort-based approach

straightforwardly accounts for a number of generalizations, drawn from

a survey of 272 grammars:

* Geminate stops never lenite unless they concomitantly degeminate.

* Unaffricated stops never synchronically spirantize to strident


* All else being equal, lenition occurs more readily the greater the

openness of the flanking segments (the widely attested pattern of

intervocalic lenition being a special case).

* Lenition occurs more readily the faster or more casual the speech.

The approach is illustrated with case studies of lenition in Tumpisa

Shoshone and Florentine Italian.
Article:Version 1