Revis(it)ing French palatalization


This paper explores the diachrony of French and reconsiders the classical analysis of French palatalizations. It is widely admitted that the transition from Latin dorsal stops to French palatal fricatives is triggered by an external palatalizing object which affects the constitution of the targeted consonant. While this analysis can satisfyingly explain the palatalization of dorsals before /i/, it makes the palatalization before /a/, which occurred a few centuries later, completely opaque. Revising the internal structure and the melody used to describe segments (Government Phonology 2.0 – Pöchtrager 2006) allows us to give a unified analysis of both palatalizations: whether /i/ or /a/, the vocalic environment is indeed the trigger, as it interferes with the structure of dorsals and lead to internal changes. However, while /i/ adds palatality to the consonant, /a/, by its lack of melody (Pöchtrager & Živanović 2010), leads to an internal reconfiguration of the dorsal, which already contains <I>. In other words, we face two kinds of palatalization: an external one and an internal one. Furthermore, our analysis takes the intermediate stages from Latin dorsals to French palatals into consideration and attested dialectal variations observed in Northern France.

This article is part of the special collection: Palatalization


Romance, French dialects, Diachrony, Structure, Element Theory, Government ­Phonology 2.0

How to Cite

Tifrit, A. & Voeltzel, L., (2016) “Revis(it)ing French palatalization”, Glossa: a journal of general linguistics 1(1), p.10. doi:







Ali Tifrit (LLING UMR 6310 CNRS / University of Nantes)
Laurence Voeltzel (LLING UMR 6310 CNRS / University of Nantes)



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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0


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