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LINGUIST List 17.1374

Thu May 04 2006

Diss: Phonology: Dalcher: 'Consonant Weakening in Fl...'

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        1.    Christina Villafana Dalcher, Consonant Weakening in Florentine Italian: An acoustic study of gradient and variable sound change

Message 1: Consonant Weakening in Florentine Italian: An acoustic study of gradient and variable sound change
Date: 03-May-2006
From: Christina Villafana Dalcher <cvillafanaverizon.net>
Subject: Consonant Weakening in Florentine Italian: An acoustic study of gradient and variable sound change

Institution: Georgetown University
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2006

Author: Christina Villafana Dalcher

Dissertation Title: Consonant Weakening in Florentine Italian: An acoustic study of gradient and variable sound change

Dissertation URL: http://www.georgetown.edu/users/cmv2/Dissertation.htm

Linguistic Field(s): Phonology

Dissertation Director:
Elizabeth C. Zsiga

Dissertation Abstract:

This dissertation analyzes Gorgia Toscana, a process in which consonants
weaken in fluent speech in Tuscan Italian dialects. Previous studies (Izzo
1972; Giannelli and Savoia 1978-80; Kirchner 1998; Marotta 2001; Sorianello
2001) describe Gorgia Toscana as a lenition process resulting in
categorical, but variable output. Categoricity is evident in these
studies' reference to discrete allophonic realizations; variation is
observed along several dimensions such as place of articulation, locus of
weakening, and subject-specific degree of weakening. This dissertation
examines acoustic data from six speakers of Florentine Italian (one
thousand tokens) in order to describe the process of Gorgia Toscana
quantitatively, and to assess the roles of physiological, perceptual,
abstract cognitive, and social factors in the process.

Four acoustic correlates of lenition were measured: consonant duration,
voicing, relative amplitude, and release burst. Principal Components
Analysis performed on these individual measures generated a latent variable
(L-score), enabling quantification of lenition for each token.
Statistical analysis shows that lenition occurs at all points along a
continuum, that it affects all stop consonants in the phoneme inventory
(with velars leniting most, and categorically surfacing as extremely weak
approximants), and that it is present to a greater or lesser extent for
different speakers.

Results of this study indicate that Gorgia Toscana produces gradient and
variable output, with certain patterns occurring in the variation. The
observations that emerge from the data cannot all be accounted for if
Gorgia Toscana is characterized as a purely phonetic, phonological, or
socially-driven process of sound change. Rather, different aspects of the
process are attributed to different motivators: gradience and
velar-preference to articulator movements; resistance of non-velar lenition
to perceptual constraints; targeting of a complete natural class and
categorical weakening to abstract featural representations; and
intersubject variation in velar lenition to external social factors.

It is argued that an account of the patterns observed in Florentine
consonant weakening necessitates the interaction of several forces.
Analysis of data from Gorgia Toscana contributes to the body of research on
sound change and variation and serves as a basis from which to explore the
interaction of forces on language structure and use.

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