Work Papers of the Summer Institute of Linguistics, University of North Dakota Session




From the introduction, "As is commonly known, permissible word- and syllable-initial consonant clusters in Spanish consist of a stop (p t k b d g) or f followed by one of the two liquids r or l. Of the fourteen theoretically-possible combinations which these groupings yield, two are problematic: tl and dl

"The sequence dl does not occur word-initially and its word-internal attestation is limited to second person plural "familiar" commands such as tomadlo ('drink it'), which are rarely used outside of Spain. In words of this type the syllable break unquestionably occurs between the d and the l; since the /d/ in this environment is pronounced as a voiced fricative, it is much higher in sonority than is a voiceless stop such as /t/. Therefore, the phonetic sequence [dl] constitutes a type of sonority clash (cf. Parker 1989) and is consequently split apart during the syllabification process. The sequence tl is somewhat more frequent than dl since it does occur in a few rather common words, such as atlas 'atlas' and atleta 'athlete'. However, the cluster tl never occurs word-initially except in a few uncommon Aztec loanwords used in Mexico. Thus the question arises of how words such as atleta are to be syllabified: at.le.ta or a.tle.ta?

"This article is organized as follows. First I review some of the relevant literature in order to demonstrate that the correct syllabification of tl clusters in Spanish is not at all an uncontroversial issue. I then describe a psycholinguistic test which I designed for the purpose of resolving this controversy. [...] Next I present the results of the testing, which strongly indicate that word-internal tl clusters in Spanish pattern as tautosyllabic onsets. Finally I discuss the theoretical implications of these findings."

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