The phonology of nasal consonants in five Spanish dialects

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The processes of nasal place assimilation, neutralization, velarization and absorption are analyzed in terms of three independent markedness constraints: Agree(Place), Place Hierarchy, and Align-C(Nasal), which despite being concerned with different aspects of the structure of output forms, conspire to undermine the place features of nasal consonants in the syllable coda. Data from five different Spanish dialects support the view that coronal is the unmarked place for consonants, and that the tendency of syllable-final nasals to become velar is not a consequence of assigning them an unmarked place articulator but of assimilating them to the preceding vowel. From this standpoint, velarization is only an intermediate step in a larger-scale process, whereby the nasal consonant is incorporated into the structure of the nuclear segment for the sake of segment-to-syllable alignment.


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