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Dissertation Information

Title: When Synchrony Meets Diachrony: (Alveolo)Palatal Sound Patterns in Spanish and Other Romance Languages Add Dissertation
Author: Andre Zampaulo Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Ohio State University, Department of Spanish and Portuguese
Completed in: 2013
Linguistic Subfield(s): Historical Linguistics; Phonetics; Phonology;
Subject Language(s): Spanish
Director(s): Fernando Martínez-Gil
Terrell Morgan
Rebeka Campos-Astorkiza

Abstract: This dissertation carries out a thorough investigation of the evolutionary patterns of (alveolo)palatal lateral, obstruent, and approximant sounds in Spanish, with further evidence from other Romance languages, such as Portuguese, French, Italian, Rumanian, Galician, and Catalan, among others. These sounds are interconnected in their manifestations across Spanish dialects, where orthographic ll and y may be pronounced in similar or different ways, giving rise to phonological phenomena such as yeismo, ieismo, zheismo, sheismo and many patterns of distinction.

Despite several philological and descriptive accounts on the evolutionary steps of those sounds from their roots in Latin and early Romance (e.g. Menéndez Pidal 1950, 1977; Alonso 1962; Lapesa 1981; Lloyd 1987; Penny 2002; etc.), very few have attempted to consider the aforementioned synchronic dialectal patterns in order to shed light on their pathways of variation and change. As a response, this study utilizes the phonetic detail (i.e. articulatory and acoustic features) of (alveolo)palatal segments and their interaction with surrounding sounds to uncover their very origins and evolution in Spanish and other Romance languages. By relying on phonetics to motivate a formal analysis of sound change, and through the observation and analysis of both historical and present-day dialectal data, this dissertation offers a phonetically-grounded theoretical explanation for the evolution of the sounds in question. It builds upon several works already present in the literature (e.g. Wireback 1997; Holt 1997, 2003; Baker 2004; etc.) and contributes with an integrated account of the phenomena in question. It is grounded on the hypothesis that, given (co-)articulatory and acoustic-auditory constraints in the speech signal during the spoken communication between two individuals, the phonetic cues present in the signal represent a conditio sine qua non for the relevant changes and evolution of sounds (see Kavitskaya 2002; Colantoni 2004; Ohala 2012; and references therein). Thus, this study assumes that a sound change has its seed intra-linguistically and takes place at the level of the individual, while the diffusion of change—which ultimately may lead to a change in the phonemic inventory of all the speakers of a language—becomes possible with the inclusion of other appropriate extralinguistic variables (Ohala 1981, 1989, 2012; Blevins 2004).

The novel approach put forth in this dissertation indicates how the traditionally assumed boundaries between synchrony and diachrony become hazy, once a comprehensive and evolutionary account takes into consideration both historical and current dialectal data. By looking at sound change from the perspective of speaker-listener interaction, different evolutionary pathways are accounted for in a straightforward and non-teleological manner, casting light upon why similar change events may take place in different languages and/or the same language across periods of time. Therefore, the use of synchronic data to understand diachronic evolution reveals itself to be relevant in order to fill in the gap between the present and the past and offers a successful explanation for the evolution of sounds and their current dialectal manifestations.