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Title:Constraint Interactions in Spanish Phonotactics: An Optimality Theory Analysis of Syllable-Level Phenomena in the Spanish Language
Authors:Michael Shepherd
Abstract:This thesis presents an Optimality Theory (OT) investigation of the role of the syllable in Spanish phonology. The explanatory power of the syllable has earned it a central role in phonological theory, and this well-deserved distinction has followed it into OT. In this thesis, we demonstrate how such issues as the well-/ill-formedness of onsets and codas, word- and phrase-level syllabification and ‘resyllabification’, phonotactically motivated repair processes, as well as several other well-known phenomena such as vowel merger, diphthong formation, glide strengthening, /s/ and nasal debuccalization, nasal and lateral place assimilation, ‘depalatalization’, and even plural formation follow from constraint interactions within a single, language-specific hierarchy of universal, violable constraints.

In the first half of this thesis (chapters 1 through 3), we set the stage by dividing simple and complex onsets and codas into well formed, ill formed, and unclear/marginal cases. We then present an OT analysis of syllabification, showing how the same constraint interactions that account for the respective well- or ill-formedness of the aforementioned onsets and codas also accounts for the parsing of input strings into syllabified outputs. We go on to expand our constraint hierarchy to demonstrate how not only the need for phonological repairs, but also the specific repair strategies employed and even the variable application of some repairs, follow from constraint interactions.

The second half of this thesis (chapters 4 through 6) develops a series of case studies. Chapter 4, ‘Onset fulfillment’, examines such ONSET-motivated phenomena as vowel merger and diphthong formation, discusses the possibility of ONSET-motivated epenthesis, and presents a rather extensive analysis of the underlying status of glides, all within the framework of OT. Chapter 5, ‘Coda conditions’, presents an OT analysis of coda phenomena, including several patterns of /s/ and nasal debuccalization with varying degrees of opacity as well as place assimilation by nasals and laterals, and concludes by reconsidering ‘depalatalization’. In Chapter 6, we touch on the phonology-morphology interface as we present a novel, OT analysis of Spanish plural formation which uses constraint-interactions to eliminate the need for the concatenation of a plural morpheme.
Type:Paper/tech report
Article:Version 1