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Sound Change in Romance and the Non-Explanatory Nature of Preference Laws

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In recent years, it has been proposed, notably by Vennemann and Murray, that the direction of sound change can be predicted in terms of a set of syllable-structure preference laws which are based on the notion of consonantal strength. This paper attempts to show how problematic such an approach proves to be when the data from Romance historical phonology proposed in support of these laws are examined critically. Numerous counterexamples and internal contradictions suggest that syllable structure has little or no influence on the effectuation of any type of sound change, and that it is purely fortuitous if a more "preferred" structure happens to emerge from a phonetically-motivated operation.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 1990

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