Intervocalic lenition and word-boundary effects: Evidence from Judeo-Spanish

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The lenition of intervocalic consonants is typically phonologized in sound change only within word domains. At first blush, this morphological restriction might seem to contradict the Neogrammarian hypothesis of exclusively phonetic conditioning in sound change. In this paper I examine the weakening of intervocalic voiced stops/affricates in Istanbul Judeo-Spanish. Comparison with Old Spanish shows that in the native lexicon intervocalic lenition has affected only word-internal consonants. Even consonants following a prefix boundary remain unaffected. I argue that, at the time of the expulsion of the Spanish Jews, the language already had the spirantization process, at least in incipient form. This process, which continues to operate across the board in Mainstream Spanish, became restricted at the word level in Judeo-Spanish. This interpretation, consistent with the Neogrammarian hypothesis, is the only one that offers an explanatory account and is supported by the evidence from other similar developments in the history of the Romance languages and with results from recent acoustic studies on incipient or optional lenition processes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)232-266
Number of pages35
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2013


  • Judeo-Spanish
  • Lenition
  • Phonemic split
  • Phonological recategorization
  • Romance
  • Sound change
  • Spanish
  • Word boundaries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy
  • Linguistics and Language


Dive into the research topics of 'Intervocalic lenition and word-boundary effects: Evidence from Judeo-Spanish'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this