Epenthesis, Spanish, formal, performance, linguistics


Epenthesis of /e/ before sC- clusters in Spanish is documented word-initially (e.g., eJfera) as well as in word-internal contexts (e.g., subestimar). Cases of alternating epenthesis also exist (e.g., arteriosclerosis I arterioeclerosis). Epe nthesis is examined in the formal frameworks of lexical phonology and optimality theory. Both formal analyses are able to account for the majority of the data presented, however, each requires some arguably ad hoc manipulation in order to do so. From a performance standpoint, it is argued that epenthesis plays no role in the processing of native Spanish words. The appearance of epenthesis in loan words (e.g., stress > est res) is explained in terms of schemas. The fact that /e/ emerges as the epenthetic vowel, as well as the fact that epenthesis applies so as not to break up sC- clusters, is the result of a phonotactic schema that has its origins in a historical e pe nthesis process that is synchronically defunct. Adopted words epenthesize with /e/ because /e/ is the most commonly occurring vowel before word init ial sC- c lusters. In addi tion, epenthesis occ urs to the left of the sC c luster because word initial seC- is much less common than word initial esC-. Cases of alternating epenthesis are d ue to the varying degrees of morphological decomposition different speakers perform.

Original Publication Citation

2001. “Spanish Epenthesis: Formal and Performance Perspectives.” Studies in the Linguistic Sciences. 31.33-53.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Illinois Working Papers (SLS)







University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor

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