Friday, January 20, 2017

Denasalization in Portuguese

Portuguese and Spanish are similar languages. However, one of the features which serves to distinguish them in denasalization. A number of Portuguese words deleted an earlier intervocalic nasal which Spanish still preserves. Here is a list to illustrate:

arena areia (sand)
cadena cadeia (chain)
ganado gado (livestock)
general geral (general)
luna lua (moon)
moneda moeda (coin)
persona pessoa (person)
sonar soar (sound)
tener ter (have)
venir vir (come)

In the cases of areia and cadeia, we see denasalization followed by diphthongization. In words such as ganado and tener, we see denasalization followed by vowel deletion. The word vir illustrates denasalization followed by deletion of the unstressed vowel. As a result, we can postulate that in words such as ter the unstressed vowel was deleted. In general, both front vowels are unstressed (geral is stressed on the final syllable), but it seems plausible that the second vowel was deleted because it was the least stressed.

Denasalization is one phonological process which is evident in Portuguese. The loss of intervocalic /n/ in Portuguese is not evident in Spanish and other Romance languages. In certain cases, however, Portuguese preserves intervocalic /n/. as in  corona (crown), fonologia (phonology) and telefone (telephone). Thus intervocalic denasalization in Portuguese is variable.

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