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The Development of Latin Post-Tonic /Cr/ Clusters in Select Northern Italian Dialects

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Jeff Kilpatrick

The Development of Latin Post-Tonic /Cr/ Clusters in Select Northern Italian Dialects offers an explanation of the disparate outcomes of similar consonant clusters within several related Northern Italian dialects through application of optimality theory and frequency effects. It features a new approach to previously underrepresented phenomena in Italian dialectology in that it combines previously separated changes into one single theory. This volume is particularly useful for scholars within the fields of Romance languages and linguistics as well as for advanced students of the Italian language with an interest in dialects or advanced students of linguistics specializing in Romance languages or Italian.

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6 FREQUENCY 76

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 CHAPTER 6 FREQUENCY 6.0 Frequency Effects and Lexical Diffusion While the previous accounts of the changes to post-tonic consonant clusters in Latin seen in this study succeed in describing the process for these changes, they do little to provide an explanation as to why the changes occur, or even why one occurs and not the other. If we assume that there are three distinct yet related processes (i.e. Webb & Bradley’s metathesis and epenthesis analysis and Wilson’s deletion analysis), we must be able to account for the impetus behind these changes. Given the nature of the changes and the fact that the universality of sound change does not seem to apply (i.e. not every /Cr/ cluster is affected in the same way) and that the three changes seen in the northern Italian dialects are all recognized as being phonetically abrupt but lexically gradual in nature (Phillips 2006), one promising approach is Lexical Diffusion. In fact, as Phillips also notes, “metathesis is a clear example of a phonetically abrupt change that never seems to affect all the words of a language at the same time.” While the same cannot be said with such certainty of epenthesis and deletion, these processes do seem to operate on a similar level in that they significantly alter the structure of a given word and seem to “spread” from word to word or sequence to sequence rather than appear in all eligible cases at once. The other factor in determining what change occurs is the frequency of...

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