Abstract: "Consonant Lenition"
by Robert Kirchner, University of Alberta
In Bruce Hayes, Robert Kirchner, and Donca Steriade, eds., Phonetically-Based Phonology, Cambridge University Press.
Despite the pervasiveness of lenition in the sound systems of natural language, previous theories have failed to capture formally the phonetic unity of the various lenition processes (e.g. degemination, voicing, spirantization, debuccalization, deletion), or to account for the environments in which lenition typically occurs. This chapter presents a unified approach to consonant lenition, wherein particular lenition patterns arise from Optimality Theoretic conflict between a principle of effort minimization (which I style Lazy), and faithfulness to auditory features, in combination with (perceptually-based) fortition constraints, building upon the proposals of Jun (1995) and Flemming (1995). The approach is illustrated with analysis of a several lenition processes in Florentine Italian, both obligatory and variable. It is further demonstrated that this effort-based approach captures a number of typological generalizations.
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