Optimality-theoretic advances in our understanding of Spanish syllable structure

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This article offers an optimality-theoretic account of Spanish syllable structure that integrates all areas covered by traditional analyses of syllabification: syllable types, phonotactic restrictions, syllabification algorithms, domain of syllabification, and repair strategies. The article aims to highlight the advantages of an optimality theoretic approach to syllabification in order to support the claim that OT has brought about significant improvement in syllabic theory. Among these advantages are the replacement of language-specific rules with universal constraints; the resolution of rule conspiracies; and the elimination of stipulatory statements (quality of epenthetic vowels) and adhoc conditions on rule application. The descriptive facts are explained through the general mechanism of interaction of universal markedness and faithfulness constraints. Cross-dialectal and intra-speaker variation are obtained through variation in the ranking of the constraints. By resorting to universal constraints and language-specific ranking, variation is shown to result from the implementation of various ways of obtaining the same goal (e.g., elimination of coda consonants: complete deletion, voice neutralization, stricture neutralization, vocalization, etc.). Processes that were presented as separate in a derivational model (i.e., Spanish diphthongization, resyllabification and onset strengthening) are shown to respond the same motivation (avoid onsetless syllables). The article aims to be an updated optimality-theoretic alternative to general accounts of syllabification such as Harris (1989) and Hualde (1991).


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