Publication Date

Summer 2017

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Linguistics and Language Development


Daniel D. Silverman


Andalusian, aspiration, Castilian, lenition, s, Spanish

Subject Areas

Linguistics; Language; Foreign language education


In this thesis, a new methodology is proposed for investigating Spanish [s] lenition (sound weakening or loss) via morphological analysis instead of phonetics. Word-final [s] is a morphological plural marker in Castilian Spanish, but is rarely produced in Western Andalusian Spanish (WAS). It is often asserted in the literature that the loss of [s] in WAS requires plurality to be expressed via alternative means. The results of this study rule out lexical and morpho-syntactic compensation for [s] lenition in WAS in several previously untested domains, and imply that there is no functional motivation in Modern Spanish driving a need for compensation for word-final [s] lenition on nouns or determiners. This investigation is built on a predictable calculation of the environments in which the loss of [s] may result in derived singular/plural homophony in WAS nouns. This is used to quantify potential semantic ambiguity. A frequency comparison of 27,366 WAS and Castilian nouns, across 60 specific Determiner + Noun phrase environments, finds no significant differences between the dialects in the type or token frequencies of numerically ambiguous nouns, nor in 98.7% of the tested phrase environments. When taken in context with studies excluding phonetic compensation in WAS, the current results suggest that the low semantic relevance of word-final [s] in Modern Spanish is a potentially far-reaching explanation for the variable manifestations of [s] lenition experienced in Spanish dialects across the world.