Consonant gemination in Central

Catalan and Mallorquí

In this section, we discuss a process of consonant assimilation that occurs in two dialects of Catalan, the standard dialect spoken in Barcelona (which we will refer to as Central Catalan) and the variety known as Mallorquí spoken on the island of Mallorca. The process applies very differently in these two Catalan varieties, and so looking at both presents an opportunity to study a case of dialectal variation.

In phonological terms, geminates are long consonants that have the phonological value of twice their single counterparts. Some languages (for example, Italian, Japanese) have an underlying contrast between geminate and ungeminated consonants. We can see this contrast in the Italian pair bene 'good' and benne 'buckets'. Geminates are usually transcribed as a double consonant, e.g. [pp], but in fact, they are not articulated twice, but rather, have greater duration (are "held" longer) than their ungeminated counterparts, which sound shorter.

Not all languages with geminates have a lexical contrast between long (geminate) and short consonants. In some languages, geminates are created by sound processes that result in the complete assimilation of one consonant to another. Catalan is such a language. In the data that follow, we will be looking at cases in which a geminating sound process applies across a word boundary in Central Catalan and Mallorquí. It is especially easy to see the effects of assimilation processes across word boundaries because the basic form of the word affected by assimilation can easily be seen in contexts that are not affected by the rule. In this study, we will be looking at how assimilation affects the final stops of the words in (1). The process we are discussing here is general and applies "across the board", and so the words in (1) are broadly representative.) Note that all obstruents occurring in word-final position are voiceless when nothing follows, due to a process of final devoicing.)

(1) Simple words ending in labial, alveolar, and velar stops.
Sound class Catalan (both dialects) English Gloss
Final labials cap [kap] 'no'
sap [sap] 's/he knows'
xarop [ʃəɾop] 'syrop'
Final velars poc [pɔk] '(a) little, not very, not much'
puc [puk] 'I can'
Final alveolars pot [pɔt] 's/he can'
plat [plat] 'plate'
fet [fet] 'fact, act'
set [sɛt] 'seven'

Our interest here is in what happens when a word final consonant forms a C1C2 cluster with the first consonant of a following word. (It is especially easy to see the effects of consonant assimilation in clusters that span a word boundary, because the underlying form of the word-initial and word-final consonant in each is clear, based on how they are realized in non-assimilation contexts.) Mallorquí and Central Catalan respond very differently to these conditions, and so we discuss the data from each dialect in turn.

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