University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics


This paper examines the weakening and deletion of /s/ in the Languedocian dialect of Modern Occitan, particularly with regards to how it may affect the system of plural marking in noun phrases. Using data from linguistic atlases, and taking the geographical distribution of variants to represent the history of a change, I reconstruct a trajectory of s-loss in Languedocian by which /s/ aspirates to [h], then vocalizes to [j] before deleting entirely. I find that, where /s/ on the definite article has vocalized to [j], the immediately-preceding vowel of the definite article has undergone concomitant raising to [e]. This raising appears to preserve the difference between singular and plural despite the plural's weakening /s/. I argue that these results support Labov’s (1994:596) hypothesis that the meaning of a weakening element may be transferred to a stable, co-occurrent one.