Edited by Geoff Lindsey and Andrew Nevins
[Language Faculty and Beyond 14] 2017
► pp. 215–230
This paper discusses how complex onset reduction impacts phonological representation, intending to contribute to the debate on the abrupt or gradual nature of segmental loss. Complex onset reduction involves cases where adjacent consonants occur in the same syllable and can be simplified to a single consonant as in Brazilian Portuguese data: outro ou[tɾ]o > ou[t]o ‘another one’ and brasileiro [bɾ]asileiro > [b]asileiro ‘Brazilian’. We will examine r-loss in complex onsets in Samothraki Greek and Brazilian Portuguese, intending to show that it evolves through different pathways in each language. In Samothraki Greek, complex onset reduction is a regular and productive phonological process, whereas in Brazilian Portuguese complex onset reduction is a variable phenomenon with lexical conditioning. Samothraki Greek complex onset reduction promotes vowel lengthening, which is clearly audible and can be empirically observed by acoustic inspection of spectrograms. In Brazilian Portuguese complex onset reduction also promotes vowel lengthening, but it is not perceived by speakers although it can be examined experimentally. Complex onset reduction in Samothraki Greek interacts with palatalization and vowel centralization in order to prevent opaque forms. On the other hand, in Brazilian Portuguese opaque forms occur as a consequence of palatalization or post-tonic gliding, both of which are related to complex onset reduction. We suggest that complex onset reduction in Samothraki Greek and Brazilian Portuguese provide evidence for either an abrupt or gradual impact of segmental loss on phonological representations.