On the effect of (morpho)phonological complexity in the early acquisition of unstressed vowels in European Portuguese
The goal of this paper is to examine the acquisition of vowels in European Portuguese by monolingual Portuguese children. The vowel inventory in this language is affected by reduction in unstressed position, which entails allophonic (and allomorphic) variation. This study focuses on the acquisition of the unstressed [ɨ] and [ɐ] resulting from the reduction of the segments /a/, /e/ and /ɛ/. Regarding the analysis of the target system, the process that reduces /a/ to [ɐ] involves the Height node (degree of openness) while the process that reduces /ɛ, e/ to [ɨ] affects both the Height node and the V-Place node (place of articulation). Given the facts attested in the adult system, data obtained from seven children in the process of acquiring Portuguese as their native language is examined in the light of the following research questions: is the order of acquisition related to the featural architecture of segments? Are children sensitive to phonological processes in the early stages of phonological development?