Central Catalan

When we come to examine the sound behaviour of stop clusters in the Central (Barcelona) variety of Catalan, we find the effects of stop assimilation to be quite different from the pattern found in Mallorquí.

When Central Catalan speakers pronounce the word combinations in (6) in which an alveolar stop precedes another stop at any place of articulation, labial, alveolar, or dorsal (velar), the alveolar assimilates fully to the following stop, exactly as we saw in the Mallorquí data on the last page.

(6) Stop clusters with alveolar C 1 in Central Catalan
Central Catalan English Gloss
pot pensar [pɔp pənsa] 's/he can think'
plat preparat [plap pɾəpəɾat] 'prepared plate'
pot botar [pɔb buta] 's/he can jump'
fet blat [feb blat] 'made wheat'
pot dormir [pɔd duɾmi] 's/he can sleep'
pot de pesols [pɔd də pezuls] 'can of green peas'
pot comprar [pɔk kumpɾa] 's/he can buy'
plat concret [plak kunkɾet] 'specific plate'
pot guanyar [pɔg gwəɲa] 's/he can win'

However, in stop clusters in which C1 is not an alveolar but rather a velar stop, we see something different. When Central Catalan speakers pronounce these sequences, they come out as in (7).

(7) Stop clusters with velar C 1 in Central Catalan
Central Catalan English Gloss
puc banyar [pug bəɲa] 'I can wet'
poc beneficiós [pɔg bənəfisios] 'not very beneficious'
poc pa [pɔk pa] 'little (not much) bread'
puc plorar [puk pluɾa] 'I can cry'
poc tros [pɔk tɾɔs] 'small piece, few pieces'
puc tenir [puk təni] 'I can have'
poc de mel [pɔg də mɛl] 'a bit of honey'
puc dormir [pug duɾmi] 'I can sleep'
puc cantar [puk kənta] 'I can sing'
puc guanyar [pug gwəɲa] 'I can win'

In (7), we see that a velar C1 does not assimilate to the place features of the second stop, but it does agree with it in voicing. The examples in (8) show that we find exactly the same outcome when C1 is a labial stop.

(8) Stop clusters with labial C 1 in Central Catalan
Central Catalan English Gloss
cap bici [kab bisi] 'no bike'
cap banda [kab bandə] 'nowhere'
sap plorar [sap pluɾa] 's/he knows (how to) cry'
cap tros [kap tɾɔs] 'no piece'
sap tot [sap tot] 's/he knows it all'
cap dur [kab du] 'tough head (stubborn)'
xarop dolç [ʃəɾɔb dols] 'sweet syrup'
cap gros [kab gɾɔs] 'big head'
sap cantar [sap kənta] 's/he knows (how to) sing'
cap cantó [kap kənto] 'no corner (no spot)'

To summarize what we've seen in this module so far, in the Mallorquí and Central dialects of Catalan, clusters of stops, call them C1C2 clusters, display the effects of an assimilatory process in which C1 assimilates regressively to the voicing and place features of C2. In Mallorquí, C1 always assimilates fully (that is, in both place and voicing) to C2, regardless of C1's place of articulation. Stop assimilation in Central Catalan applies in a narrower environment: only an alveolar C1 assimilates to C2 in both place and voicing. When C1 is not alveolar (i.e. is labial or velar), it assumes only the voicing of the second stop.

The rule we proposed in (5) to account for Malloquí treated place and voicing assimilation as aspects of a single process of stop assimilation. However, Central Catalan facts give us reason to question that analysis.

To account for alveolar stop assimilation in Central Catalan, we could adopt a narrower version of the Mallorquí rule. The more restricted rule, stated in (9), differs from the Mallorquí rule in that the features [+coronal, +anterior] have been added to the structural description of the target, C1.

(9) Central Catalan alveolar stop assimilation
/[-sonorant, -continuant, +coronal, +anterior]/
[αvoice, βplace]
[-sonorant, -continuant,
αvoicing, βplace]

Note that while such a rule descriptively accounts for the alveolar cases, an analysis of Central Catalan that includes (9) has two weaknesses. One is that it does not explain why voicing assimilates in cases where place features do not. In fact, the behaviour of the labial-initial and velar-initial clusters in (7) and (8) should lead us to suspect that Central Catalan has an independent process of regressive voice assimilation. In fact, all evidence supports this position, and we provide a full treatment of Catalan regressive assimilation at the link labelled voicing phenomena on the menu at the left. (Note: our discussion of voicing phenomena is based on Central Catalan, but Mallorquí displays the same effects.)

This brings us to the second weakness of an analysis of stop assimilation that includes the rule in (9): if regressive voicing assimilation is the effect of a separate rule, then the rules in (9) (for Central Catalan) and (5) (for Mallorquí) are overspecified - they say too much. In building voicing assimilation into (9) and (5), these rules miss the generalization (lose sight of the point) that voice assimilation is independent. A new rule of Central Catalan Stop Assimilation that describes only place assimilation is stated in (10). Figure (11) provides a similarly revised rule for stop assimilation in Mallorquí.

(10) Central Catalan alveolar stop assimilation (revised)
/[-sonorant, -continuant, +coronal, +anterior]/
[-sonorant, -continuant, αplace]

(11) Mallorquin stop assimilation (revised)
/[-sonorant, -continuant]/
[-sonorant, -continuant, αplace]

In the next section we continue to refine our analysis by testing our rules against further data.

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