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Blevins, Juliette and Egurtzegi, Ander (2017): Unexpected obstruent loss in initial obstruent-sonorant clusters: an apparent example from Basque. In: Phonology, Vol. 34, No. 3: pp. 507-522

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Abstract

The apparent loss of initial obstruents in Basque borrowings from Romance (e.g. laru << Lat. claru) is striking. While Proto-Basque is generally reconstructed as lacking initial clusters, the expected repair in loans, based on typology, phonology and phonetics, is copy-vowel epenthesis, not obstruent loss. Indeed, there is evidence for a vowel-copy process in Basque in other loans with obstruent-sonorant clusters (e.g. gurutze << Lat. cruce). We suggest that initial obstruent loss before /l/ but not /r/ is related to Romance developments. In the Romance varieties in contact with Basque, /fl pl bl kl gl/ all show evidence of neutralisation to /lambda/ word-initially. We hypothesise that obstruent loss in words like Basque laru reflects influence from local Romance languages at a time when Basque lacked /lambda/. In contrast, vowel copy conforming to Basque syllable structure was the norm in Romance loanwords with clusters not affected by this process.

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