Vowel Raising in Spanish Historical Phonology
A feature geometry analyis
Lucía I. Llorente
This work addresses the raising effect that a palatal glide had upon the stressed vowel of the preceding syllable, a process which happened in the development from Late Latin to Old Spanish. This effect is particularly visible in the lack of diphthongization of mid-open stressed vowels, which, under normal conditions, would undergo a process of diphthongization. All Late Latin vowels, however, except for the highest ones, undergo raising one degree. This "irregular" development of vowels has been traditionally linked to the presence of a palatal glide in the environment, and this study follows the traditional analysis, but tries to integrate it within the recent phonological framework of Feature Geometry, which has been proved to be an ideal model to describe assimilation processes. In particular, it follows Jung's (1991) hierarchical representation, focusing on the structure of the place node. In order to describe vowels, Jung makes use of the standard features [high], [low], and [ATR], placing them under what he calls the "vertical" node.
When analyzing the raising process using the tools provided by Jung's work, two processes are possited. On the one hand, the lack of diphthongization of mid-open stressed vowels is attributed to the spreading of the feature [+ATR] from the glide onto the preceding stressed vowel. On the other, in order to explain the raising undergone by /e/ and /o/ on some occasions the notion of parasitic harmony (as described in Cole (1991)) is used. The feature that is considered to be under assimilation in this case is [+high], but the process only happens when the trigger (the glide) and the target (the preceding vowel) share a contextual feature, which, in the present case, is the specification for [+ATR]. This second process is sometimes blocked, because the intervening consonants are specified for the feature [+high], which is the one being spread. In order to explain the behavior of /a/ in the presence of the palatal glide, the notion of strict adjacency is brought into the picture. Only in this situation does /a/ undergo raising.
ISBN 9783895864414. LINCOM Studies in Romance Linguistics 25. 220pp. 2001.