Survival of the Fittest: Fricative Lenition in English and Spanish from the Perspective of Optimality Theory

This book provides an in-depth analysis of weakening processes attested in Spanish and English within the framework of Optimality Theory (OT). It examines fricative lenition as an instance of sound change in progress, contributing to the study of phonological change and the notion of strength in phonology. It also provides motivation for the introduction of a derivational stage in OT analysis. A critical discussion of various OT sub-theories leads to interesting conclusions concerning the way in which lenition and opacity processes should be addressed in OT.

Furthermore, under the assumption that language change should be conceived in evolutionary terms, the book concludes that sounds undergo continuous modification which is not at all accidental. In taking a broader perspective on language, the book considers phonological processes to be successors of phonetic innovations, and predecessors of morphological and lexical shifts. The empirical data from Chilean Spanish and English serve as instantiations of the universal patterns of language change seen as regularities within irregularities attested across languages.

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