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Syllabic phenomena in Spanish and Portuguese

Rosemary E Weston, University of Massachusetts Amherst


This dissertation proposes a hypothesis on syllable structure and examines resyllabification of word final segments in Caracas Spanish and in standard Portuguese. The most important aspect of the hypothesis is that the Onset and the Nucleus of the syllable are a constituent $\sigma \sp\prime$, lower than the constituent that includes postnuclear segments. $\sigma\sp\prime$ is optimally CV, where C is a consonant or consonant cluster, but it can contain a prenuclear glide. Maximizing $\sigma\sp\prime$ prevents the syllable from incorporating postnuclear segments into all of the possible postnuclear syllabic positions. Syllabification at the post-lexical level, which is called resyllabification, can alter the syllable structure of words by adjoining the syllable final margin or Coda of a word to the syllable initial margin of a following word if this syllable has an empty Onset. It is the position of this dissertation that glides occupy an Onset position, thus resyllabification does not take place if the following syllable starts with a glide. The first chapter of the dissertation is a review of the notion of syllable, a review of possible syllables in human languages and a presentation of the prosodic units for Spanish and Portuguese. It is proposed that although there is variation among languages all present a strong tendency to have syllables of the type CV. The second chapter deals with previous studies on the syllable, from traditional to generative phonology. The hypothesis is presented in detail in the third chapter and the fourth chapter is a sociolinguistic study of the behavior of word final consonants in Caracas Spanish. The study is supported by a computational and probabilistic analysis of the data using GoldVarb. The results of the analysis confirm the prediction about resyllabification and show that this process takes place post-lexically, after all other processes have taken place at the word level. To confirm the lack of resyllabification of the syllable final margin when it is a velar nasal or when the following syllable starts with a glide, a questionnaire is added and the results, once again, support the initial hypothesis.

Subject Area


Recommended Citation

Weston, Rosemary E, "Syllabic phenomena in Spanish and Portuguese" (1997). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI9809410.