On the Syllabification of Prevocalic /w/ in Judeo-Spanish

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Spanish prevocalic glides belong to the syllable nucleus except when no less sonorous segment is available to serve as onset (Harris 1983, Harris & Kaisse 1999, Hualde 1989, 1991). Phonological innovations in a particular group of Judeo-Spanish dialects point to a novel generalization regarding the labiovelar glide, namely that /w/ is realized as secondary labialization on a preceding consonant. Evidence supporting this structural innovation comes from an asymmetry in the distribution of labialization. In these dialects, prevocalic /w/ strengthens to a labialized dorsal obstruent in syllable-initial position (ɡʷéso ‘bone’) but is realized as a secondary articulation on a preceding labial (pʷéðe ‘can’) or dorsal (kʷé.ðɾa ‘rope’). Labialized coronals are disallowed and show several historical reflexes depending on the coronal’s manner of articulation: nasal place assimilation (nwe>mʷe), medial vowel epenthesis (twe>tuɣʷe), and prothesis (swe>esʍʷe). These innovations are analyzed in Optimality Theory in terms of interacting markedness and faithfulness constraints. The proposed account has implications for the issue of possible repair strategies, a.k.a. the “too-many-solutions” problem.


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