"The Italian 'mobile diphthongs’'" sheds light on the complexity of one of
the salient analogical changes that occurred in the Italian language, viz.
the elimination of the alternation between the stressed diphthongs [jɛ] and
[wɔ] and the unstressed monophthongs [e] and [o], respectively, within a
limited group of inflectional and derivational paradigms. Historically, the
monophthong–diphthong alternation was the consequence of a pan-Romance
diphthongization process that affected the Late Latin low mid vowels in
stressed positions. The relatively recent levelling of this alternation has
led to a great deal of variation: in some cases the alternations are
maintained while in others they have been eliminated.
The first aim of the present study was to scrutinize durational aspects of
Italian diphthongs and monophthongs in general. The second aim was to
examine to what extent the variation caused by analogical levelling of the
monophthong–diphthong alternation, attested in written sources, also occurs
in the spoken language. To investigate these issues, a series of production
experiments was carried out with native speakers of Italian. The final aim
was to provide a coherent phonological treatment of the insights provided
by the experiments within the framework of Optimality Theory.
The book is intended as a contribution to experimental phonetics and
phonology. It introduces an exciting tool for language-variation research,
the speech-shadowing technique, and discusses recent phonological
approaches to phenomena such as glide formation, analogy and paradigm
uniformity. Therefore, this study is of interest to both phoneticians and
phonologists, as well as to linguists with a special interest in Italian.