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LINGUIST List 19.2226

Sun Jul 13 2008

Sum: /l/-Palatalisation in Complex Onsets

Editor for this issue: Dan Parker <danlinguistlist.org>

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        1.    Daniela Müller, /l/-Palatalisation in Complex Onsets

Message 1: /l/-Palatalisation in Complex Onsets
Date: 10-Jul-2008
From: Daniela Müller <daniela-muellergmx.de>
Subject: /l/-Palatalisation in Complex Onsets
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Query for this summary posted in LINGUIST Issue: 19.2071
Almost two weeks ago, I posted a query about /l/-palatalisation in complex 
onsets, such as can be found in various dialects of Romance. I asked
whether anyone knew of any phonetic studies on this subject or whether
anyone was aware of this phenomenon in non-Romance languages.

I would like to thank the following people (in alphabetical order) for
their responses:
Lieselotte Anderwald, Paul Fallon, Damien Hall, Eric Holt, Mark Jones,
Warren Maguire, Martin Mangei, Viola Miglio, Christopher Miller, Marc
Picard, Nathan Sanders, Stephan Schmid, Richard Steiner

1) Phonetic studies on /l/-palatalisation in complex onsets

Viola Miglio and Eric Holt pointed me to chapter 4 of Eric Holt's PhD
thesis (''The Role of the Listener in the Historical Phonology of Spanish
and Portuguese: An Optimality-Theoretic Account.'', 1997, Rutgers
Optimality Archive, ROA-278), which offers a summary of (non-experimental)
phonetic explanations of this phenomenon, in addition to the OT approach
taken in this thesis.

Paul Fallon sent the following reference: Otto von Essen, 1964. An
acoustic explanation of the sound shift [ł] > [u] and [l] > [i]. In David
Abercrombie, D.B. Fry, P.A.D. MacCarthy, N.C. Scott, and J.L.M. Trim (eds),
In Honour of Daniel Jones. London: Longmans; 53-58. Von Essen claims, on
the basis of comparisons of the spectrograms of [l] (clear [l]) and [i],
that there are strong resemblances between their formant structures. His
spectrograms (von Essen 1964: 56, fig.1), however, do not strongly support
(t)his conclusion.

Nevertheless, it seems that, so far, the only available experimental
phonetic study on /l/-palatalisation remains von Essen 1964. If someone
could prove me wrong on this point, I'd be delighted to post an addendum to
this summary.

2) /l/-palatalisation and related phenomena in other languages

Marc Picard and Christopher Miller referred me to Proto-Algonquian /l/
which palatalised to /j/ in all environments in Plains Cree and James Bay Cree.

Christopher Miller and Nathan Sanders pointed me to the Slavic languages,
to a process whereby Proto-Slavic /pj/ had an /l/ epenthesised (/plj/),
with further developments in the different Slavic languages. Christopher
Miller reported this phenomenon also for /bl/ and /vl/ in the South Slavic

This phenomenon is interesting insofar as in the Romance languages, /pl,
bl, fl/ palatalise later and in a smaller geographical area than /kl, gl/.

3) hypotheses

Mark Jones suggested that /l/-palatalisation passed through a stage
involving a voiceless lateral fricative, which would arise from an
increased VOT after the voiceless plosive (or from fricativisation from a
preceding voiceless fricative), and then be reinterpreted by listeners as a
devoiced /ʎ/ or /j/. Richard Steiner cited indeed a case from a Yiddish
variety where /klajn/ was realised [kɬʲajn]. However, as the phenomenon in
Romance involves palatalisation of voiced and voiceless obstruents alike,
this 'aspiration' of /l/ might not be the origin of the palatalised /l/ in
the Romance dialects.

Thanks again for all the suggestions and reflections on /l/-palatalisation
in complex onsets. As several people wrote, this phenomenon has not yet
received the attention it deserves from phonetics. I'll send the results of
my study to those of you who requested it.

Linguistic Field(s): Phonetics

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