Portuguese vinho: Diachronic evidence for biphonemic nasal vowels

John M. Lipski

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An unusual historical phenomenon, peculiar to Portuguese, is the development of a palatal nasal consonant after stressed i in hiatus where an n had previously fallen; e.g. vïnum > vïo > vinho. It is claimed that this change was initiated by the presence of a ‘transitional’ glide element [j] which appeared after the high vowel i in hiatus. The combination of the nasalized vowel resulting from the previous loss of intervocalic n and the glide element [j] made the words in question conform to the surface pattern ṼC which resulted from vowel nasalization by a tautosyllabic nasal consonant. Since the nasal consonant which had fallen in the latter cases was always homorganic with the following oral consonant, speakers analyzed the sequence Ṽj as containing the palatal nasal [ñ]. The presence of the transitional glide [w] after tonic u in hiatus is also analyzed as the prime factor behind the development of m in uma < Latin ũnam. the interlocking results of a number of discrete factors. These include the existence of the corresponding masculine form um (pronounced [uŋ] in Galician), the fact that it was the high vowel u in hiatus, and the combinatory properties of the articles, which enable them to form a nexus with a following word.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)243-251
Number of pages9
JournalActa Linguistica Hafniensia
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 1973

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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