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Question

I've noticed a phenomenon in (Central) Catalan speech that I had seen no mention of when studying the language. In words with a final -nys or -lls, the s is assimilated and becomes palatal [ʃ] (or possibly [tʃ]).

e.g.

  • any /aɲ/ > anys /aɲʃ/
  • aquell /əˈkɛʎ/ > aquells /əˈkɛʎʃ/

My questions are:

  1. how widespread is this phenomenon in Catalan?
  2. in dialects with this feature, does it apply in all /ɲ/, /ʎ/ + /s/ environments or is it limited to certain words (e.g. only those with word final -nys/-lls)?
  3. at what point did this phenomenon begin to emerge?
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    .(i am a fan of this question). A pattern that comes out is V+ny+s or V+ll+s where V is a vowel (also assuming that V+j is effectively V (as j is a glide)). Are there contradictions to this? If not I think we can build up on this if you have examples that tell us that C+ny/ll+s is not palatalizing. – WiccanKarnak Mar 21 '18 at 15:30
  • As far as I am aware, there are no examples of C + ny/ll + s in any Catalan word. All words which have a consonant before ny/ll are prefixes to ll initial words (en, des, tras... etc, plus a few surnames and toponyms with initial San/Mon) or have V + tll + V where the t is assimilated, exhibiting (dialect depending) as [ɫɫ], [ɫ], [ʎʎ] or [ʎ] e.g. almetlla. – iacobo Mar 21 '18 at 16:28
  • The following map shows the different realisations of /ʎs/: aldc.espais.iec.cat/files/2013/07/… – iacobo Sep 10 '18 at 12:08
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  1. I think palatalization of final s in such environments is the most common outcome, and I wouldn't trust native speakers not versed on linguistics since the difference is not phonemic, let alone represented in spelling. I also have the feeling that palatalization in nys is clearer than in lls. My s in anys is a downright /ʃ/, but in valls it's so soft that I'm not even sure if it's palatalized at all. See Lluís' tweet (and he's quite a knowledgeable guy IMHO) where he transcribes anys (before vowel) as /aɲʒ/, while Tonifranro's version (Valencian apitxat) uses /aɲtʃ/.

  2. I don't think "final" is a necessary condition, it just happens that the vast majority of instances are plurals from a word ending in -ny or -ll. The only counterexamples I can think of are menystenir and menysprear.

  3. I have no idea, but my feeling is that since the very first moment these sounds come into contact it's totally natural to assimilate them. Note that the opposite direction also takes place: in words with nx or lx. See DCVB's entries for e.g. llanxa and Elx.

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L’Atles Lingüístic del Domini Català

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Native speakers

Here are some self-aware discussions by native speakers noting the phenomenon:

Grup d/Estudi de la Variació Dialectal (GEVaD)

En posició final de mot, la consonant nasal palatal palatalitza la fricativa alveolar següent (-[ɲʃ] a anys, empenys, menystenir). El mateix s’esdevé, en major o menor grau segons els dialectes, en el cas de la consonant lateral palatal (-[ʎʃ] o -[ʎs̠] a alls, bulls, cabells).

Diccionari de Dubtes del Català Oral (DDCOR)

Recordings of words containing nys and llys in various Catalan dialects:

* seems to contradict Maria-Rosa Lloret's description of this only occurring word finally
** note, to my ear palatalisation of the s does not seem to occur with this toponym in any dialect illustrated

DCVB

The DCVB entries on any and menys note this in some dialects:

FON.: áɲ (pir-or., or., occ., val., bal., alg.).

Pronúncia del pl. anys:

  • áɲs (Perpinyà, Noedes, Fontpedrosa, Prats de M., Sallagosa, Angustrina, Porté, Puigcerdà, Martinet, Ribes, Ripoll, Olot, Capmany, Cadaqués, Bagà, Berga, Manresa, Granollers, Sort, Oliana, Tremp, Balaguer, Artesa, Tamarit de L., Fraga, Ciutadella, Eiv.);
  • áɲʃ (Pobla de L., Torre de C., Tremp, Ponts, Arbúcies, Caldes de Ma., Vilafranca del P., Sta. Col. de Q., Eiv.);
  • áɲʧ (Pobla de L., Torre de C., Boí, Vilaller, Tremp, Balaguer, Ll., Arbeca, Tarr., Val., Llíria, Gandia, Porreres);
  • áјɲs (Puigcerdà, Gòsol, La Seu d'U.);
  • áјɲʃ (Mercadal, St. Climent de Men.);
  • áјns (Manacor, Santanyí, Porreres).

FON.:

  • méɲs (or., bal.);
  • meɲʧ (occ., val.).

La conservació de la forma menys en el llenguatge quotidià es limita gairebé a les comarques valencianes; en les altres regions ha estat substituït per la forma castellana menos, inacceptable en bon català.

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