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Title:The Role of the Listener in the Historical Phonology of Spanish and Portuguese: An Optimality-Theoretic Account
Authors:David Eric Holt
Comment:Requires SILDoulosIPA font for viewing of many symbols. Spectograph from Chapter 4 in separate
Abstract:The Role of the Listener in the Historical Phonology

of Spanish and Portuguese: An Optimality-Theoretic Account

David Eric Holt, M.S.

Mentor: Alfonso Morales-Front, Ph.D.

[Readers: Thomas J. Walsh and Elizabeth Zsiga]

[Defended 10 July 1997; Deposited August 1997]

Note: Proper viewing of all phonetic symbols requires the

installation of the font SILDoulosIPA.

File 1 includes all front matter (title page, abstract,

acknowledgements, table of contents, definition of language terms),

introduction, Chapter 1. (54 pp)

File 2 includes Chapter 2. (36 pp)

File 3 includes Chapter 3 and an appendix. (38 pp)

File 4 includes Chapter 4 and two appendices. (77 pp)

File 5 includes Chapter 5 and references. (19 pp)


In this dissertation I study the application to historical sound

change of a constraint-based approach to phonology. I employ

Optimality Theory (Prince and Smolensky 1993, McCarthy and Prince

1993a,b) in the analysis of the principal changes in syllable

structure that developed from Latin to Spanish and Portuguese. I

argue that historical sound change is driven by the incorporation

of phonetic factors into phonology for reasons of lexicon and grammar

optimization, and show that the role of perception and

reinterpretation by the listener is crucial in achieving this

optimization. Additionally, reanalysis of underlying forms may have

profound effects on the constraint hierarchy of the grammar, leading

to the step-wise rise of markedness constraints versus faithfulness


Furthermore, several steps in the historical development of certain

phenomena of syllable structure and phonological/phonetic forms are

best understood as resulting from effects of perception and

(re-)interpretation by the hearer.

Chapter 1 discusses the need for theoretical approaches to historical

change in additional to traditional ones, introduces theoretical

machinery (Optimality Theory, lexicon optimization, moraic theory and

its relation to sonority) and reviews previous OT approaches to

variation and change.

In Chapter 2 I show that reanalysis by the listener of phonetic

differences leads to loss of vowel length distinctions in Late Latin,

initiating massive changes in the distribution of long segments: a

constraint disfavoring moraic consonants begins to rise, first

reducing obstruent geminates and vocalizing syllable-final velars.

Chapter 3 continues to explore results of the loss of phonological

vowel length. I first treat the evolution of the seven-vowel system of

Late Spoken Latin, and argue that reanalysis of the Latin Stress Rule

led to vowel lengthening. Later developments lead to diphthongization

of stressed open mid vowels in Old Spanish. I then show that geminate

consonants are progressively simplified, with the sonorants now being

affected. Reduction leads to /n, l/ in Galician/Portuguese, but

palatal /N, L/ in Old Spanish, where merger with Latin /n, l/ would

have resulted.

Chapter 4 shows that the listener may (mis)interpret one sound for a

less marked one based on great acoustic similarity. In the development

of Latin _Cl_ clusters to Spanish, Galician and Portuguese _-ch-_, I

argue that voicing assimilation yielded a cluster that was interpreted

as [tS]. The Uniformity Condition is also reconsidered.

Chapter 5 summarizes the results of this study and offers several

conclusions about historical sound change in Optimality Theory.


Definitions of Language Terms xiii

Introduction 1

Chapter 1: Theoretical considerations 6

1.0 Introduction 6

1.1 Historical change 6

1.2 Historical change in generative phonology 7

1.3 Theoretical assumptions 10

1.3.1 Optimality Theory 11

1.3.2 Lexicalization and lexicon optimization in

Optimality Theory and previous models 18

1.3.3 Moraic theory 25

1.4 Previous OT approaches to variation and historical

change 28

1.4.1 OT approaches to variation 28 Zubritskaya (1994) 28 Anttila (1995) 30

1.4.2 OT approaches to historical sound change 32 Jacobs (1994, 1995) 32 Hutton (1996) 33 Gess (1996) 37 Summary 37

1.5 Directions for the present study 38

Notes to Chapter 1 39

Chapter 2: The evolution of Latin vowel length and

geminate obstruents 41

2.0 Introduction 41

2.1 Distinctive vowel length in Latin 42

2.1.1 Vowel quantity in Latin 45

2.1.2 The role of phonetics and the listener in

eliminating vowel length 49

2.2 Consequences of the loss of contrastively long vowels 53

2.3 The sonority hierarchy and *LONG 55

2.4 The rise of *C-mora in the loss of the moraic status

of obstruents 61

2.5 Summary and conclusions 70

Notes to Chapter 2 72

Chapter 3: The evolution of Late Spoken Latin /E, O/ and

geminate sonorants 77

3.0 Introduction 77

3.1 The phenomena to be analyzed in the history of

Hispano-Romance 77

3.2 Reanalysis of the Latin Stress Rule: Consequences for

Hispano-Romance 80

3.2.1 The effects of STRESS-TO-WEIGHT in

Hispano-Romance 81 Vowel lengthening in Hispano-Romance 81 Diphthongization of /E, O/ in Old

Spanish 84

3.3 Evolution of Latin geminate sonorants /nn, ll/ in

Hispano-Romance 91

3.3.1 Simplification of /nn, ll/ in Galician/

Portuguese 94

3.3.2 Palatalization of /nn, ll/ in Old Spanish 94

3.4 Summary constraints, rankings and classes of moraic

segments in Hispano-Romance 100

3.5 General summary and conclusions 103

Notes to Chapter 3 106

Appendix to Chapter 3: Coarticulated nasal and lateral codas in

Andalusian and Caribbean Spanish 110

Chapter 4: Comprehension, reinterpretation and the

Uniformity Condition 115

4.0 Introduction 115

4.0.1 Data 116

4.0.2 Previous accounts 118

4.0.3 Principal issues of this chapter 122

4.1 A unified approach 124

4.1.0 Outline of the present analysis 124

4.1.1 Analysis of Sp. ll, Gal./Ptg. _lh_ 125

4.1.2 Analysis of Sp., Gal./Ptg. _-ch-_ 134

4.1.3 Analysis of Gal./Ptg. _ch-_ 142

4.1.4 Analysis of remaining data from medial position 145

4.2 The listener as a source of sound change 150

4.3 Summary and conclusions 152

Notes to Chapter 4 155

First Appendix to Chapter 4:

On the phonetic plausibility of _Cl_ > tS 162

Notes to first Appendix to Chapter 4 178

Second Appendix: Other cases of the 'Uniformity Condition' 179

Notes to second Appendix to Chapter 4 192

Chapter 5: Summary and conclusions 193

References 197

The computer file version:

In preparation of the computer file version I occasionally found it

necessary to make minimal changes in formatting. For instance, not all

page breaks are the same, and consequently there may be slight

differences in page numbering between the Table of Contents and the

computer file version.
Article:Version 1