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Prosodic licensing of codas in the acquisition of Spanish

by Conxita Lleó
Probus ()

Abstract

Twocase studies are presented of two monolingual Spanish children (ages 1;5 to 2;2 and 1;3 to 2;3) focusing on the acquisition of syllable final consonants, here analyzed as codas. On the basis of target Spanish it is predicted that word final codas should be acquired before word medial codas, because the former are often coronal, i.e., unspecified for Place, and the latter are linked to the following onset, which involves some representational complexity. Moreover, if morphological factors play an important role in early acquisition, final codas, corresponding to plurals and to verbal endings, should be favored over medial codas. The results instead show a clear preference for medial over final codas. Codas of function words, i.e., articles, are favored as well. The analysis shows that these results are due to the prosodic and rhythmic structure of the language and relates syllable development to prosodic and rhythmic development as well as to the development of function words. The preferred foot in adult as well as in early Spanish is the trochee, and many of the function words receive a secondary stress. It is thus argued that a stressed syllable, being the head of a foot, licenses codas in early acquisition. For the two children presented here, prosody paves the way to morphology.

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