LINGUIST List 14.261

Fri Jan 24 2003

Review: Phonology: Wiltshire & Camps (2002)

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  1. Marc Picard, Romance Phonology and Variation

Message 1: Romance Phonology and Variation

Date: Fri, 24 Jan 2003 00:24:50 +0000
From: Marc Picard <>
Subject: Romance Phonology and Variation

Wiltshire, Caroline R., and Joaquim Camps, eds. (2002) Romance
Phonology and Variation. John Benjamins, x+238pp, hardback ISBN
1-58811-079-6, $72.00.

Announced at

Marc Picard, Concordia University

This book is a collection of selected papers from the Thirtieth Annual
Meeting of the Linguistic Symposium on Romance Languages (LSRL 30)
which took place in February, 2000 at the University of Florida in
Gainesville. The thirteen articles are preceded by a section entitled
''Romance phonology and variation'' in which the editors (henceforth
W&C) present an overview of the articles. Although some of these
papers may combine issues of the two major themes, W&C introduce them
in terms of either phonology or variation. The phonology-based papers
can be roughly categorized according to whether they deal with either
markedness/correspondence, typology or representations, while the
variation-based articles are either dialectal or contact-oriented in

The first paper is Barbara E. Bullock's ''Constraining the vagaries of
glide distribution in varieties of French'' wherein she examines
''language-external evidence that points to how speakers of French
actually treat surface glide-vowel (GV) sequences in linguistic
performance'' (p. 11). She concludes on the basis of data drawn from
child language, language games and dialectal variation that ''speakers
actually treat surface GV strings as belonging, as a unit, to the
nucleus of the syllable'' (p. 17), thus calling into question previous
analyses of French glide distribution in which it was assumed that
some or all GV sequences are derived from VV ones.

''On the relationship between comprehension and production data in
codeswitching'' by Paola E. Dussias deals with a phenomenon known as
'the functional element effect' whereby ''there is a systematic
favoritism for switches that involve certain grammatical categories
over others during codeswitched speech'' such that ''whereas
functional elements tend to appear in one language, their complements
appear in the other language'' (p. 27). Having shown in a previous
study that Spanish-English bilinguals took significantly longer to
read sentences like:
 (1) La maestra no sabia que the boy had left
where the functional head and its complement appeared in the same
language, than they took to read sentences like:
 (2) La maestra no sabia that the boy had left
where these elements appeared in different languages, the author sets
out to investigate whether these comprehension preferences can be
replicated in production data. Her results indicate that the two types
of preferences do not always match, and she suggests possible
explanations based on certain linguistic, psycholinguistic and discourse

In ''Focus, word order variation and intonation in Spanish and English:
an OT account'', Rodrigo Guti�rrez-Bravo compares languages like Spanish,
which have what is known as focus-related word order variation, and
English, which does not, as shown in the following sentences:
 (3) Ayer compr� el peri�dico Juan
 (lit. ''Yesterday bought the newspaper Juan'')
 (4) John bought the newspaper yesterday
Rejecting ''recent analyses [which] connect this word order variation in
Spanish . . . with some structural condition that requires a focused
constituent to occupy a specific syntactic position'' (p. 39), he argues
that given the fact that the focused subject in both the Spanish VOS
structure and the English SVO structure are assigned sentential stress,
the variation can be accounted for in an Optimality Theoretical model
through the differential ranking of a prosodic constraint - the Nuclear
Stress Rule (NSR) - relative to syntactic constraints on focus and
subject position.

''Morphological complexity and Spanish object clitic variation'' by
David Heap examines the two different types of third-person
object-pronoun paradigms that exist in various social and geographical
dialects of Spanish. These two types of pronominal paradigms, which he
refers to as the etymological (or case-based) system and the
referential system, make differential use of morphological contrasts
mostly based on the features

[DATIVE], [FEMININE] and [PLURAL]. For example, in the first system we
find structures like:
 (5) Lo conoci ''I met him''
 (6) Le di un regalo ''I gave her a present''
which correspond in the second system to:
 (7) Le conoci ''I met him''
 (8) La di un regalo ''I gave her a present''
Given that an analysis which considers the pertinent features to be
binary overpredicts the number of contrasts which are in reality highly
constrained, the author proposes ''a Feature Geometry account which
allows for the attested range of variation in pronoun paradigms without
opening the door to unconstrained variation'' (p. 55).

In ''Catalan phonology: cluster simplification and nasal place
assimilation'', Dylan Herrick examines the complex interaction of
these two processes ''from the perspective of a parallel non-serial
version of Optimality Theory'' (p. 69). The problem is that cluster
simplification (CL) and nasal place assimilation (NPA) in Catalan
yield opaque surface forms, as shown in the following example:
 (9) /tin+k bint botas+s/ > [tiN bim bots] ''I have twenty wineskins''
where the first two words undergo CL but only the second undergoes NPA
since the velar nasal [N] fails to assimilate to the following labial.
By resorting to Correspondence Theory and output-output constraints, the
author proposes to ''account for the apparent opacity . . . without the
need for additional theoretic machinery such as cyclicity, multiple
levels, or underspecification'' (p. 69)

The central issue addressed by D. Eric Holt in ''The articulator group
and liquid geometry: implications for Spanish phonology present and
past'' is one that has preoccupied a number of generative phonologists
over the years, viz., whether liquids are continuants or
non-continuants. His goal is to ''propose a novel approach to the
understanding of the ambivalent status of the feature [�continuant]
of /l/, whose value is not universally accepted'' (p. 85). To this
end, he reanalyzes the synchronic process of Spirantization in
Spanish, zeroing in on its oft-debated post-liquid application before
voiced labial and dorsal stops (/lb lg/ > [lB lG]) but not before
coronals (/ld/ > [ld]), and he also discusses various historical
changes involving /l/ in that language.

The purpose of Jos� Ignacio Hualde's article ''Intonation in Spanish
and the other Ibero-Romance languages: overview and status
quaestionis'' is to ''examine some specific issues in the intonation
of Spanish and its close relatives that have arisen in recent work and
are currently controversial'' (p. 101). The author focuses on three
issues in the context of the Autosegmental-Metrical model of
intonational analysis as applied mainly to Spanish and also
peripherally to Portuguese and Catalan. These are (1) the phonological
analysis of rising pitch-accents which are defined as tones associated
with stressed syllables, (2) the nature and phonological
characterization of final declarative contours, and (3) intonational
phrasing where variance can be attributed to pragmatic considerations
such that, for example, a sentence like:
 (10) Mariano me dio la moneda de oro ''Mariano gave me the gold coin''
can have a different intonational contour depending on whether the
context is a response to something like ''what did Mariano give you?'' as
opposed to ''what did Mariano do?''.

In '''Partial' Spanish: strategies of pidginization and simplification
(from Lingua Franca to 'Gringo Lingo')'', John M. Lipski examines the
kind of widespread Spanish foreigner talk which stereotypically
employs the infinitive as default verb and *mi* as subject pronoun,
and omits definite and indefinite articles, e.g., *mi ver soldado* for
*yo veo a el soldado* 'I see the soldier'. Given that ''today no known
second-language learners of Spanish speak in this fashion'' (p. 118),
he sets out to examine real examples of reduced language in
Afro-Iberian, 'Moorish' Spanish, Anglo (mostly American), Philippine,
Chinese and Amerindian pidgin Spanish, Basque Spanish, and Spanish
child language in order to find answers to the two following
questions: ''[w]hat . . . is the relationship between imagined and
real 'foreigner' Spanish, and how has a reasonably cohesive model of
such 'almost-Spanish' remained in the Spanish collective unconscious
for so long?'' (p. 118).

The gist of D. Gary Miller's ''The death of French in medieval
England'' consists of the presentation of ''[s]everal new pieces of
evidence in support of [the] thesis . . . that Anglo-French (AF) was
dead by ca. 1400'' (p. 145). The article comprises sections on the
expansion of French in England, the resistance of English to this
linguistic onslaught, the lexical and morphological signs of the
imminent death of AF,and the characteristic features of late AF that
point to convergence with English as found both in literature and in
the records of the London Grocers' Company. Essentially, it is the
sharp decline of French calques in English along with the significant
increase of French suffixes in English hybrids that lead the author to
conclude that by ca. 1400, AF was in the throes of ''a typical
language death situation, in which the dying language employs extreme
measures of convergence as an attempted survival strategy'' (p. 157)

As the title ''Discourse context and polysemy: Spanish *casi*''
clearly indicates, Scott A. Schwenter's paper has implications for
both Hispanic linguistics and semantics/pragmatics. In the former
case, the central issue revolves around an innovative use of *casi*
'almost', notably in Spain's Valencian Community. Thus, beside the
normal use of this adverb in sentences such as:
 (11) �Casi no me lo dices! 'Now you tell me!'' (lit. 'You almost don't
 tell me!')
speakers of this dialect can say with the same meaning:
 (12) �Casi me lo dices! 'Now you tell me!'' (lit. 'You almost tell me!')
What the author shows is that this 'inverted' *casi*, as he terms it, is
neither ironic nor possible in a non-temporal setting, and so should be
analyzed as a distinct polysemy. In sum, he ''offers up a case study
which illustrates how to distinguish between contextually-determined
interpretations of a lexical item, on the one hand, and conventionalized
senses - polysemies - of the same lexical item, on the other'' (p. 161).

Given previous claims to the effect that reduplication in French nouns
and adjectives is too unpredictable and unproductive to be amenable to
a unified analysis, Mary Ellen's Scullen's intent in ''New insights
into French reduplication'' is to ''present new data on 'invented'
reduplications in the domain of French baby-talk which strongly
suggest that French reduplication is indeed productive and that it can
be analyzed straightforwardly with a constraint based approach such as
Optimality Theory'' (p. 177). In essence, what she succeeds in showing
by asking native speakers to invent reduplicated forms is that there
is a productive process that is basically right-edged and
consonant-initial, e.g., *toto* < *auto* 'car', and that preserves a
final coda consonant while deleting it in the reduplicated syllable,
e.g., *b�b�te* < *b�te* 'silly, foolish'. Although the language
does contain a number of exceptions, such as *pipi* < *pisser* 'to
piss' and *fifi* < *fille* 'girl', the vast majority of these are
clearly lexicalized since such configurations are almost never
produced in invented forms.

In Optimality Theory, it has been proposed that certain constraints
must work in tandem and that these conjoined constraints are violated
if and only if both conjuncts are violated. In ''Local conjunction in
Italian and French phonology'', Bernard Tranel and Francesca Del Gobbo
present arguments on three fronts in favor of the conjoined constraint
{ONSET&NOCODA}. First, they claim that ''this constraint makes sense
of the acquisition pattern of Dutch syllable structure'' (p. 191)
which has the peculiarity of being (1) CV, (2) CV, CVC, (3) CV, CVC,
V, i.e., of having V syllables without concomitant VC
syllables. Second, they argue that Local Conjunction can be ''shown to
play a key role in explaining the suppletive distribution of the
masculine plural definite article in Italian'' (p. 191) whereby *gli*
occurs before vowels, geminates and obstruent + obstruent clusters,
and *i* everywhere else. Third, they propose that {ONSET&NOCODA} can
account for ''the exceptional behavior of *h-aspir�* words with
respect to optional schwa deletion in French'' (p. 191), e.g. *le
h�ros* /lero/ 'the hero' (where // is a mid-low front rounded
vowel) as opposed to *l'�tau* /leto/ 'the vise'.

Having previously ''submitted a number of observations which strongly
suggest that mora count has a major role to play in an analysis of
main stress in non-verbs in Brazilian Portuguese'' (p. 219),
notwithstanding the widespread belief among contemporary phonologists
that ''languages without a distinctive quantity opposition cannot have
a weight sensitive stress rule'' (p. 221), W. Leo Wetzels sets out to
discover in ''On the relation between quantity-sensitive stress and
distinctive vowel length: the history of a principle and its relevance
for Romance'' whether Trubetzkoy is really the source, as is often
claimed, of the argument that contrastive vowel length is a
prerequisite to weight-sensitive stress. His general conclusion is
that ''it does not make much sense to refer to Trubetzkoy to dismiss
the possibility of a weight-sensitive stress rule for Romance''
(p. 232) since his main concern was to find a way to represent
distinctive vowel length rather than weight.


Anyone who has patiently read through the foregoing descriptions may
find, as I did, that there is something incongruous about this
collection. Indeed, it might well have been titled ''Romance Phonology
et al.'' for the thread that connects the articles W&C have included
under the theme of 'variation' with those that are phonologically
oriented is a mighty fine one. In fact, the same might also be said of
the 'variation' papers themselves which constitute a pretty disparate
bunch, dealing as they do with codeswitching, morphology,
pidginization, language death and pragmatics. Still, this does not in
any way detract from the quality of the individual articles themselves
which are, on the whole, informative, interesting and well
written. Most linguists, even those who are not steeped in Romance
phonology, should find something of interest in this volume.


Marc Picard teaches phonetics, phonology and general linguistics in
the TESL Centre at Concordia University in Montreal. He has published
extensively on the synchronic and diachronic phonology and morphology
of French and other Romance languages.
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