Branching onsets and segment licensing: the lack of debuccalization or deletion of the muta cum liquida clusters in central Sardinian dialects

Lucia Molinu


Some central Sardinian dialects undergo debuccalization of /f/ and /k/. The clusters /fr/ and /kr/, on the other hand, fail to undergo debuccalization or deletion (Wagner 1984 [1941]; Contini 1987; Molinu 1997). The purpose of this article is to attempt to answer the following questions: why does debuccalization of /f/ and /k/ or /f/ deletion systematically affect the fricative in a simple onset but not when /f/ and /k/ are in a branching onset? Which syllabic and segmental requirements determine the different outcomes of /f/ and /k/? I will focus on Rice’s model (Avery and Rice 1989; Rice and Avery 1991; Rice 1992, 1993, 1994a, 1994b) which makes use of the representation of segments to account for their licensing in a syllabic constituent. Indeed Rice assumes two principles (government and binding) which license the consonants in tautosyllabic or heterosyllabic sequences in structural terms, i.e. on the basis of the segment structure. I will account for the absence of debuccalization in the /fr/ and /kr/ clusters showing that the debuccalization process is blocked or repaired when it violates a principle on the structural relationships that hold within segments of branching onsets.


Binding; Debuccalization; Government; Sardinian Dialects; Syllabic Structure

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