This paper explores the link between a synchronic change in progress in Sicilian, where the diphthong /w-open O/ is monophthongizing to /open O/, and a related diachronic change in the corresponding Spanish diphthongs (/w-open O/>/wo/>/we/). It is proposed that both these changes are motivated by the resolution of a perceptually non-optimal sequence of segments. Experimental evidence is presented showing a difference in perceptual salience between diphthongs consisting of /j/ plus a mid front vowel (i.e. Sicilian /j-open/ and Spanish /je/) and diphthongs consisting of /w/ plus a mid back vowel. It is argued that this difference makes the former more stable over time and the latter more susceptible to change, either through dissimilation (Spanish) or deletion (Sicilian).
Selected Proceedings of the 3rd Conference on Laboratory Approaches to Spanish Phonology
edited by Laura Colantoni and Jeffrey Steele
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