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Intervocalic lenition and word-boundary effects

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The lenition of intervocalic consonants is typically phonologized in sound change only within word domains. At first blush, this morphological restriction might seem to contradict the Neogrammarian hypothesis of exclusively phonetic conditioning in sound change. In this paper I examine the weakening of intervocalic voiced stops/affricates in Istanbul Judeo-Spanish. Comparison with Old Spanish shows that in the native lexicon intervocalic lenition has affected only word-internal consonants. Even consonants following a prefix boundary remain unaffected.

I argue that, at the time of the expulsion of the Spanish Jews, the language already had the spirantization process, at least in incipient form. This process, which continues to operate across the board in Mainstream Spanish, became restricted at the word level in Judeo-Spanish. This interpretation, consistent with the Neogrammarian hypothesis, is the only one that offers an explanatory account and is supported by the evidence from other similar developments in the history of the Romance languages and with results from recent acoustic studies on incipient or optional lenition processes.
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Keywords: Judeo-Spanish; Romance; Spanish; lenition; phonemic split; phonological recategorization; sound change; word boundaries

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2013-01-01

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