Mid front vowel lowering before rhotics in Ibero-Romance

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This paper surveys the distribution of mid front vowels before rhotics in five different varieties of Ibero-Romance and identifies typological patterns of vowel lowering. An analysis is proposed in Optimality Theory that employs a fixed ranking of phonetically grounded markedness constraints against closed mid front /e/ in different pre-rhotic contexts, organized in an implicational hierarchy. Faithfulness constraints on vowel place features interact with this ranking to generate a factorial typology of /e/-lowering that matches the distribution observed in the data and makes predictions about possible and impossible languages. The paper also discusses theoretical implications for the status of intervocalic trills in Ibero-Romance as singleton versus geminate segments.


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