Vowel harmony

Authored by: Jesús Jiménez , Maria-Rosa Lloret

The Routledge Handbook of Spanish Phonology

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  December  2019

Print ISBN: 9780415785693
eBook ISBN: 9781315228112
Adobe ISBN:


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Vowel harmony refers to the phonological phenomenon that requires vowels in certain morphological or prosodic domains to agree in specific phonological features. This chapter presents a thorough revision of vowel harmony in southeastern peninsular Spanish, where the loss of some final consonants is compensated by opening the preceding vowel and the lax character of this vowel extends to the preceding syllables, as in nenes /nenes/: [ˈnɛnɛ] 1‘boys’. Although the opening of the rightmost vowel is usually transmitted to the left irrespective of the morphological filiation of the deleted consonant (as in Granada and Murcia), vowel harmony may be limited to lax vowels related to the loss of consonants belonging to certain inflectional suffixes (as in Jaén). The behavior of high vowels is another source of variation: they can either fully participate in the process (as in Jaén) or act as neutral vowels (as in Granada and Murcia). Regarding the harmonic domain, vowel harmony obligatorily targets the stressed syllable—the most prominent in the word—but it can also affect the stressed and the posttonic syllables—the main foot—or all the syllables in the word, sometimes permitting gapped configurations (as in Granada). After formalizing the different harmonic patterns attested in southern peninsular Spanish within a prominence-based licensing approach in Optimality Theory, we extend the typology to other Iberian Romance varieties displaying vowel harmony (Cantabrian Spanish, Asturian, and Valencian Catalan).

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