Autosegmental and metrical spreading in the vowel-harmony systems of northwestern Spain

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This paper studies the vowel-harmony processes found in the dialects of Asturias-Cantabria (Spain). These dialects present a variety of harmony systems. Harmonization may be triggered by certain high final vowels (metaphony) or by high stressed vowels. These rules can be in a feeding relation, and up to three different processes may be found in one single dialect. We find three major types of metaphony: 1. metaphony extends throughout the domain of a phonological word; 2. metaphony affects vowels only up to the stressed vowel; 3. only the quality of the stressed vowel is affected by a metaphonyinducing final vowel. This variation is of great theoretical significance. Whereas the first type can be straightforwardly analyzed as autosegmental spreading, the other two types require a metrical analysis. The feature percolates to all vowels in the foot in type 2 metaphony processes; but only to the head of the foot (the stressed vowel) in type 3 metaphony. It is thus shown that a seemingly unitary process (vowel harmony) can be implemented in radically different ways in closely related dialects. It is argued that the metrical nature of vowel harmony in certain dialects does not add complexity to the grammar, since metrical structure must be built for stress assignment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)773-806
Number of pages34
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jan 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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