In the overwhelming majority of the languages of the world there exist only tense and no lax high vowels. Natural Phonology accounts for this observational data by postulating a process of tensing which has in its structural description a condition [!higher]. This process remains active und er the form of a prelexical paradigmatic constraint in all languages lacking [-tense] high vowels, and, conversely, must be suppressed during language acquisition by any child in whose mother tongue vocalic segments such as /ɪ ʊ/ and the like do occur. Italian, as is well known, belongs to the former, and most widespread, class. However, this paper argues that, while this holds true for Standard Italian (= SI) and for the dialects spoken in northern and central Italy, (at least some) southern Italian dialects actually have to be classed within the latter group. This postulated difference between SI and southern Italian dialects, in terms of retention vs. suppression of the tensing process, is confirmed by some pieces of evidence resulting from a comparison of bot h the paradigmatic and syntagmatic structures of the two varieties. In SI the operation of the process under discussion disallows: (a) [±tense] opposition between high vowels, and (b) the occurrence of sequences of glide + homorganic high vowel. Our starting assumption about southern Italian dialects predicts that they behave in just the opposite way: namely, both (a) and (b) should be allowed. And this is in fact what is observed, when these dialects are carefully examined.

The natural phonological process V[+high] -> [+tense] and the vowel systems of some Southern Italian dialects

Michele Loporcaro
1991

Abstract

In the overwhelming majority of the languages of the world there exist only tense and no lax high vowels. Natural Phonology accounts for this observational data by postulating a process of tensing which has in its structural description a condition [!higher]. This process remains active und er the form of a prelexical paradigmatic constraint in all languages lacking [-tense] high vowels, and, conversely, must be suppressed during language acquisition by any child in whose mother tongue vocalic segments such as /ɪ ʊ/ and the like do occur. Italian, as is well known, belongs to the former, and most widespread, class. However, this paper argues that, while this holds true for Standard Italian (= SI) and for the dialects spoken in northern and central Italy, (at least some) southern Italian dialects actually have to be classed within the latter group. This postulated difference between SI and southern Italian dialects, in terms of retention vs. suppression of the tensing process, is confirmed by some pieces of evidence resulting from a comparison of bot h the paradigmatic and syntagmatic structures of the two varieties. In SI the operation of the process under discussion disallows: (a) [±tense] opposition between high vowels, and (b) the occurrence of sequences of glide + homorganic high vowel. Our starting assumption about southern Italian dialects predicts that they behave in just the opposite way: namely, both (a) and (b) should be allowed. And this is in fact what is observed, when these dialects are carefully examined.
Settore L-LIN/01 - Glottologia e Linguistica
phonology; natural phonology; vowel systems; tenseness; southern Italo-Romance dialects
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11384/124106
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