Weakening and strengthening in Romance revisited

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This paper investigates the extent to which segmental substitutions traditionally attributed to articulatory weakening and strengthening through changes in constriction degree are, in fact, caused by aerodynamic, perceptual or other articulatory mechanisms. For that purpose the articulatory, acoustic and distributional characteristics of consonants participating in the implementation of several sound change processes in Romance (lenition, occlusivization, fricativization, voicing/devoicing, affrication/deaffrication, vocalization, rhotacism, nasalization, lateralization, aspiration, glottalization, elision and place substitutions) are carefully reviewed. Data show that, while appropriate for segmental replacements involving articulatory reduction, the notion 'weakening' cannot always account for consonant changes involving backing, vocalization, aspiration and elision. Other factors besides articulatory reduction may also play a role in the implementation of consonant changes traditionally attributed to weakening, i.e., gestural decomposition, acoustic equivalence, and the perceptual categorization of the vowel transitions or of intermediate phonetic realizations between those of the input and output consonants. On the other hand, articulatory strengthening appears to be a plausible strategy for segmental substitutions occurring in strong positions but not so for sound changes involving devoicing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)327-373
JournalItalian Journal of Linguistics
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2002


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