Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2014

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Christine Shea

Second Advisor

Jerzy Rubach


The roles of phonetics (e.g., Jun 1995, Holt 1997, Steriade 2001) and Articulatory Phonology (AP, Browman and Goldstein 1986, et seq.) in both the diachronic evolution of and synchronic analyses for phonological processes are relatively recent incorporations into Optimality Theory (OT) (Prince and Smolensky 1993/2004, McCarthy and Prince 1993/2001). I continue this line of inquiry by offering an AP-based OT proposal of three fricative-vowel assimilations in Latin American Spanish: /f/>[x] velarization (fui [xui] "I went"), /f/>[phi] bilabialization (fumo "I smoke") and /x/>[ç] palatalization (gente [çente] "people").

In this dissertation, I pursue three main objectives: to update and clarify via empirical study and spectral analysis the available data; to account for the crosslinguistically recurrent phonological patterns that affect fricative-vowel sequences; and to explain the above processes' genesis and diffusion in Latin American Spanish by integrating the first two goals into an Optimality Theoretic framework.

Concerning the first task, data for the three processes are culled primarily from sociolinguistic corpora (Perissinotto 1975, Resnick 1975, Sanicky 1988, inter alia). Lacking from these accounts are detailed phonetic analyses. To fill this gap, I report on a four-part perception and production study designed to update the descriptive facts and provide spectral analyses for the allophonic variants.

Regarding the second goal, I show that fricatives are susceptible to regressive consonant-vowel assimilation given the recurrence of assimilatory patterns nearly identical to the Spanish processes under investigation in disparate languages throughout the world. I argue that articulatory and acoustic facts conspire to render place features in (non-sibilant) fricatives difficult to recover given the vast interspeaker, intraspeaker and crosslinguistic variability in production (e.g., Ladefoged and Maddieson 1996) and the greater reliance on fricative-vowel transitional cues as opposed to cues internal to the frication on the part of the hearer (e.g., Manrique and Massone 1981, Feijóo and Fernández 2003). To that end, I argue that the sound changes originate(d) with the hearer's misperception of a speaker's extremely coarticulated target (Baker, Archangeli and Mielke 2011, inter alia).

The dissertation concludes with a proposal adapting Jun (1995) that encodes the above articulatory and acoustic facts into an AP-based, typologically-minded OT approach that accounts both diachronically and synchronically for /f/ velarization, /f/ bilabialization and /x/ palatalization in Spanish (updating previous analyses by Lipski 1995 and Mazzaro 2005, 2011).


Articulatory Phonology, consonant-vowel assimilation, Optimality Theory, phonetics, phonology, Spanish


xxv, 340 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 321-340).


Copyright 2014 Jeffrey Bernard Renaud