An Analysis of the Yeísmo Merger in Córdoba, Argentina: A synchronic co-existence of all diachronic processes of lleísmo to yeísmo sound change
When two phonemes merge in a language, this does not entail that each language variety follows the same allophonic changes thereafter. One such case is the merger of lleísmo into yeísmo, which displays great allophonic variation across varieties of Spanish. In Buenos Aires Spanish, this merger has undergone allophonic change to a voiceless prepalatal fricative (Chang 2008, Fontanella de Weinberg 1978, Rohena-Madrazo 2015). Córdoba, however, appears to maintain a voiced prepalatal fricative (Colantoni 2001, Lang-Rigal 2015, Supisiche 1994). The current study examines (pre)palatal consonant variation in Córdoba to shed light into social and linguistic rationales for similar or distinct paths of sound change between dialect varieties. As no single acoustic measure distinguishes the multiple variants, the authors developed a replicable classification by coding each token based on known acoustic cues. 13,015 tokens of syllable-initial and produced by 65 speakers (37 women, 28 men) in a four-part sociolinguistic interview (semi-directed conversation, passage reading, word list, picture-naming task) were subject to mixed effect logistic regressions. The study finds that the speech of Córdoba presents five different variants, including the maintenance of the two-phoneme lleísmo distinction among older speakers in more formal styles, as well as four allophonic variants of yeísmo. Different from Buenos Aires, the dominant norm in Córdoba remains the voiced prepalatal fricative, although the voiceless prepalatal fricative is favored by women from wealthier neighborhoods. Thus, Córdoba presents a synchronic coexistence of all diachronic processes of the lleísmo to yeísmo sound change, indicatingeither a possible change from above (Labov 2001) towards the devoiced porteño norm or perhaps a maintenance of the voiced variant among most of its population due to Córdoba’s desire to preserve a unique identity from the capital (Bischoff 1979).