Epenthesis and prosodic structure in Armenian: A diachronic account
In this dissertation I will attempt to answer the following question: why does Classical Armenian have three different reflexes for the Proto-Armenian epenthetic vowel word-initially before old Proto-Indo-European consonant clusters? Two of the vowels, e and a, occur in the same phonological environment, and even in doublets (e.g., Classical ełbayr beside dialectal ałbär ‘brother’).
The main constraint driving this asymmetry is the promotion of the Sonority Sequencing Principle in the grammar. Because sibilants are more sonorous than stops, the promotion of the Sonority Sequencing Principle above the Strict Layer Hypothesis causes speakers to create a semisyllable to house the sibilant extraprosodically. This extraprosodic structure is not required for old consonant-resonant clusters since they already conform to the Sonority Sequencing Principle. Because Armenian has sonority-sensitive stress, the secondary stress placed on word-initial epenthetic vowels triggers a vowel change in all words without extraprosodic structure, i.e. with the old consonant-resonant clusters. Therefore Proto-Armenian */əłbayr/ becomes Classical Armenian [èł.báyr] ‘brother,’ but Proto-Armenian */<əs>tipem/ with extraprosodic <əs> becomes [<əs>.tì.pém] ‘I rush’ because the schwa is outside the domain of stress assignment.