Morphology and phonology of word-final vowel deletion in spoken Tuscan Italian
Italian elision consists in the optional deletion of the final vowel of a function word followed by a vowel-initial lexical word. The aim of the present study is to reach a better understanding of the interplay between phonology and morphology in Italian elision by analyzing a corpus of spoken Italian as well as by conducting an experimental study. The central claim is that two elision processes have to be distinguished, one that applies to determiners and is closer to categorical variation, to be analyzed in part as allomorphy, and another process that applies to pronouns and is closer to free variation. Italian elision is modeled in a simple optimality-theoretic constraint hierarchy: it is shown that the patterns of variation can be learned by the Gradual Learning Algorithm (Boersma & Hayes 2001), but only if two different grammars are learned for elision on determiners and on pronouns, respectively.