Segmental change: an outline of some of the most common phonological processes
6.6. Lenitions and fortitions
These are phonological processes that involve changes in the force of articulationfeature
. Thus, the change from Ancient Greek dental and respectively velar aspirated plosives to dental and respectively velar fricatives illustrates the process of lenition since plosives involve a greater articulatory effort than fricatives.E.g.: /
involve a change from a weaker sound (say, a voiced stop),to a sound involving a greater articulatory effort (a voiceless stop). It is compulsory inGerman to devoice and consequently strengthen the pronunciation of syllable-finalvoiced stops. Consider the following examples:
] ”day” vs.
] “way” vs. [
] “ways”A similar process in vowels will involve the changing of a tense vowel into a laxone or a lax one into a tense one. We talk in such cases of the phonological processes of
. Diachronically, these processes had a major influenceon the pronunciation of English vowels, but the scope of this book will not allow us to gointo details. Suffice it to say that many English derived words illustrate the phenomenon.If we compare the adjective
and the noun
or the verb
we will easily notice that the first member of each pair includes adiphthong (a tense vowel), while the inflected word has a lax monophthong in the root.According to Chomsky and Halle, this is explained by the existence in the underlyingrepresentation of a tense vowel which surfaces as such (diphthongized, in fact) in the caseof the first members of the pairs, and undergoes a process of
in the derived word.U.R.