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Metathesis of aspiration as the source of anticipatory voicelessness in Basque

  • Ander Egurtzegi (a1)

Abstract

In Basque, there is evidence, especially in early loans from Latin, that a sequence #DV(R)T… where D is a voiced stop and T is a voiceless (aspirated) stop was optionally produced with devoicing of the first of these stops. An additional particularity of this sound pattern is that the devoiced word-initial stop typically surfaces with aspiration, while the previously aspirated stop loses it: #DV(R)T(h)… > #T(h)V(R)T… This typologically uncommon sound pattern has been described as assimilation of voicelessness in the literature, or spread of [-voiced]. I propose that this sound pattern is triggered by aspiration, not voicelessness, and that it is a case of metathesis, not assimilation. Under the proposed analysis, aspiration of the second stop in the word is reanalysed as originating in the first stop, an instance of perceptual metathesis. This approach accounts for the distribution of aspirated stops before and after the optional change, and the failure of post-sibilant stops to trigger. This account also has implications for the chronology of aspiration-loss in Western dialects: at the time the earliest Latin loans were borrowed, all Basque dialects still maintained a historical series of aspirated stops. Only later, after this process of optional metathesis, did the Western dialects lose *h and stop aspiration.

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References

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