Spanish /ll/ --> /ly/ --> /y/

Rudolph C Troike rtroike at U.ARIZONA.EDU
Wed Jul 18 04:30:32 UTC 2001

Thanks to Beverly for the interesting information on the change in
Peruvian Spanish. It looks like a textbook example of how sound changes
spread. You should get the thesis listed in the Correo de Linguistica
Andina published at the University of Illinois, and I hope your student
will publish her findings.

There is a huge literature on emigration to the New World, not to be
replicated here, but not only were there regional differences within Spain
at the time, it must be remembered that settlement continued for several
hundred years, and different areas contributed differentially at different
times and in different places, while the language was meanwhile changing,
so that no simple answer is possible. The Caribbean, for example, shows
the effects of late continuing immigration from Andalucia, where
postvocalic -/s/ was aspirated to -/h/ and then disappeared. The letter
<x> was used at the time of the Conquest for a sound like that represented
by our <sh>, which later shifted to the present velar fricative /x/.

Missionary linguists were not slaves to Spanish orthography, but adapted
it as necessary to represent various native languages of the New World,
often having to represent sounds (phonemes) that did not exist in Spanish,
or contrasts that did not exist in Spanish. The -<ll>- in Classical
Nahuatl texts (and in writing modern varieties of Nahuatl) is just such an
example. I wish Mike Salovesh had not dropped out of participation, as he
could give a more detailed account of these matters from his experience in
Mexico and Guatemala. Suffice to say that one need only pick up any
dictionary or text on Nahuatl to see plenty of -<ll>-s, _not_ representing

Incidentally, in many varieties of Spanish, /y/ is presently affricating,
so <yo> (="I") is pronounced like English <Joe>.


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