Theoretical Implications of French Nuclear Diphthongisation

Stephanie Kelly


This article examines morphophonemic alternation between the high vowels Ii y u/ and their glide counterparts Ij II wI. By their very nature glides lend themselves to two possible analyses: the glide can appear either as a semiconsonant
associated with onset position, or as a semi-vowel associated with a syllabic nucleus (as part of a diphthong).
Since the formation of nuclear diphthongs is no longer an active process in French, recent phonological treatments prefer the first of the proposed analyses.
The active nuclear diphthongization hypothesis in Modem French has significant implications for phonological theory, yet empirical data from Verlan, from Spanish, and from non-standard varieties of French, strongly support such a hypothesis. Even though Phonological Government (PG) provides great insights into morphophonemic alternation, it nonetheless lacks the ability to explain adequately various aspects of medial glide formation in French.

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