The history of the sibilants of peninsular Spanish from the eleventh to the sixteenth centuries
In an attempt to find a satisfactory and comprehensive explanation for the history of the sibilants in Peninsular Spanish, I explore the causal factors that were instrumental in motivating, promoting and diffusing the merger of voiced and voiceless sibilants. An investigation of these factors includes a discussion of language typology and universals, the acoustic qualities of the sibilant fricatives, issues surrounding phonemic mergers and dialect contact and mixing. In addition, I investigate the history of the sibilants, compare and contrast opposing views regarding that history and set forth those issues that have yet to receive a satisfactory explanation. Furthermore, I attempt to determine the geographical and chronological origins and the diffusion of this sound change by an orthographical investigation of several medieval documents and texts. In the final chapter, I tie together theory and data with the aim of giving a satisfactory and comprehensive exposition of the history of the sibilants in Peninsular Spanish. I conclude that the Spanish sibilants behave in keeping with the ideal observations set forth by the language universals examined in this thesis. The language-internal motivations include the ease in the articulation of voiceless sibilants in comparison to the voiced sibilants and the conditions that made the Old Spanish sibilants ripe for merger. Dialect mixing and contact and the weak ties within the social structure of medieval Spain are the language-external motivations that encouraged and promoted the sound merger and diffusion. With regard to the geographical and chronological history of the Spanish sibilants, I conclude that by the mid-thirteenth century, there is evidence of confusion of the /z/ and /s/ and by the end of the thirteenth century, neutralization of voice in the sibilants is widespread in all parts of Iberian Peninsula. There is possible evidence of seseo in Toledo as early as 1330 and in Soria in 1355. Evidence of the merger of [+voice] sibilants and [-voice] sibilants continues to mount throughout the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. In Central Spain, there is strong evidence of seseo in Madrid (1403-06), Peñafiel (1465) and Toledo (1438). and I, therefore, contend that early seseo is not exclusively Andalusian. By the mid-fifteenth century, there is possible evidence of merger of /z/ and /s/ in Southern Spain and by the sixteenth century, there is possible evidence of the merger Of /z/ and /s/ in Northern and Central Spain and possible evidence of zezeo and çeçeo in Southern Spain.