Lenition

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Definition

Lenition is a process of weakening. The diachronic development in (i) can be analyzed as a case of lenition (Hooper (1976), Katamba (1989)):

(i)       Latin	 Italian  Spanish  French
	  vita	 vita	  vida	   vie	  'life'
            t  ->  t   ->   d   ->    0

Lenition can be explained by referring to the sonority hierarchy: the progression down the sonority hierarchy is from a voiceless stop to a voiced stop before deletion takes place. Lenition can also occur in one language.

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References

  • Hooper, J. 1976. Introduction to Natural Generative Phonology, Academic Press, New York.
  • Katamba, F. 1989. An Introduction to Phonology, Longmans, London.