Vowel hiatus and Dispersion Theory

Erika Varis

Abstract


This paper presents a Dispersion Theoretic (Flemming 2004) perspective on cross-syllable vowel hiatus in Spanish and Western Catalan. Evidence from these languages determiner-noun sequences points to a scale of sensitivity to perceptual contrast among vowels, along with augmentation in stressed syllables. These sequences show four patterns of sensitivity to vowel quality: complete tolerance (Spanish unstressed), all but the least contrastive pair tolerated (Spanish stressed), all but the most contrastive pairs not tolerated (Catalan unstressed), and complete intolerance (Catalan stressed). Using MINIMUM DISTANCE and markedness augmentation (Smith 2002), these patterns are explored within the larger typology of possible vowel hiatus sensitivity.

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