University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics


This study brings quantitative analysis to data from Florentine Italian to describe the lenition process Gorgia Toscana, assessing the roles of physiological, perceptual, phonological, and social factors. Data from six native speakers of Florentine Italian were analyzed acoustically for consonant duration, intensity, periodicity, and burst absence. Results indicate that Gorgia Toscana produces gradient and variable output, with certain patterns occurring in the variation. The observations that emerge from the data cannot all be accounted for if Gorgia Toscana is characterized as a purely phonetic, phonological, or socially driven process of sound change. Rather, different aspects of the process can and should be attributed to different motivators: gradience and velar preference to articulator movements; resistance of non-velar lenition to perceptual constraints; targeting of a complete natural class and categorical weakening to abstract featural representations; and intersubject variation in velar lenition to external social factors. Gorgia Toscana seems best understood by referring to various forces that act to encourage or inhibit weakening. Applying Hume and Johnson's (2001) filter model to lenition data, we can generalize over the observed patterns in Gorgia Toscana in a way that is descriptively and explanatorily more adequate than previous accounts of the process.