|Title:||The Phonology of Implosive Nasals in Five Spanish Dialects: An Optimality Account|
|Abstract:||The common assumption that coronal is the unmarked place of articulation seems to be contradicted by the tendency of implosive nasals to become velar. To cope with this unexpected behavior of nasal consonants, some linguists have proposed that coronal is the unmarked place in the syllable onset, but velar is the unmarked place in the coda (Trigo 1988). An alternative proposal is that specific grammars may select coronal or velar as the default place (Harris 1984). Others defend the view that implosive nasals become velar by sharing place features with the preceding vowel (Paradis and Prunet 1990). Yet another interpretation has been to assume that the derived velar nasals are actually not velar (Bakovic 2000). The patterns exhibited by implosive nasals in Spanish dialects are pertinent to this debate because both coronal and velar place behave as though they were the unmarked specification for nasal consonants in the coda.
In this paper, a system in which the main allophones of implosive nasals include a place-assimilated nasal, an alveolar nasal, a velar nasal, and a nasalized vowel is analyzed as the result of three independent markedness constraints (AGREE(Place), Place Hierarchy, and ALIGN-C(Nasal)), which despite being concerned with different aspects of the structure of output forms, come together to undermine the place features of implosive nasals. Data from five different Spanish dialects support the view that coronal is the unmarked place even in the syllable coda, and that the tendency of implosive nasals to become velar is not a consequence of assigning them an unmarked place articulator but of reducing their degree of consonantality. It is shown that velarization is only an intermediate step in a larger-scale change that involves the absorption of the nasal consonant by a preceding vowel.