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Segmental Phenomena in Germanic: Consonants  

Samantha Litty and Joseph Salmons

Speech sounds are divided into vowels and consonants, the latter being the focus here. Germanic includes ancient and modern “named languages”—traditionally divided into North Germanic (e.g., Swedish, Danish, Faroese), West Germanic (e.g., German, English, Yiddish), and East Germanic languages not spoken for centuries (notably Gothic). The family also includes countless “dialects,” which are often not mutually intelligible and so could be understood as distinct languages. Languages of the world vary in how many consonants distinguish differences in meaning (create phonological contrasts), like bear versus pear, from 6 to over 100. Most have about 20 and Germanic languages are near that number. Beyond abstract phonological contrasts, each consonant varies phonetically, in actual pronunciation, from varying degrees of aspiration on p, t, k and voicing on b, d, g to fundamental variation in the realizations of /r/, /l/, and /h/. Key consonantal phenomena are presented in historical context and for contemporary languages, with an emphasis on distinguishing abstract, phonological patterns from concrete, phonetic ones. Despite the long research tradition, many issues proffer opportunities to advance the field and are discussed to encourage readers to engage with them.

Article

Phonological Variation and Change in Italian  

Alessandro Vietti

The phonology of Italian is subject to considerable variability both at the segmental and at the prosodic level. Changes affect different features of the phonological system such as the composition of the inventory of phonemes and allophones, the phonotactic patterning of phonemes, and their lexical distribution. On the prosodic level, the variability takes the form of a composite collection of intonational patterns. In fact, the classification of intonational contours in geographical varieties appears fuzzier and less precise than the traditional division into geographical areas based on segmental features. The reasons for the high variability must be traced back, on the one hand, to the rapid and recent standardization and, on the other hand, to the prolonged contact with Romance dialects of Italy. Variation in Italian phonology can be traced back to two main dimensions: A geographic dimension, accounting for a large proportion of the total variability, and a social dimension that regulates variety-internal variation. The overall picture can be understood as a combination of vertical and horizontal sociolinguistic forces. Horizontal dynamics is responsible for the creation of a pluricentric standard, that is, a multiplicity of models of pronunciation that could be considered as geographical versions of the standard. Vertical dynamics brings about the formation of new norms at a local level and, most important, it generates a continuum of dialects ranging from the (regional) standard to the most local variety. Moving along this vertical continuum from the standard down to the local variety, there is an increasing of variability that represents a source for the emergence of social and stylistic values.