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Phonetic and phonological variation in vowel production in Ibero-Romance

CGS Brown Bag Series
Oct 21, 2015
12:15 PM to 01:15 PM
101 Old Botany

Dr. Marianna Nadeu, Penn State

In languages with lexical stress it is common to observe stress-induced effects on vowel quality and duration. In some of these languages, the effect is very salient, as we find a reduced vowel inventory in unstressed syllables (phonological vowel reduction). In other languages, effects on vowel quality may only result in slight phonetic variation (phonetic vowel reduction). Experimental evidence for phonetic vowel reduction from English has led to the postulation of two general (partially conflicting) hypotheses of how vowel production is affected by the absence or presence of prosodic prominence. This talk explores prosodically-induced phonetic variation in vowel production in two Ibero-Romance languages, Iberian Spanish (5 vowels in both stressed and unstressed position) and Central Catalan (7 vowels in stressed position, 3 in unstressed position). More specifically, this study examines how vowel quality is affected by absence of lexical stress, intonational pitch accent, and decreased duration due to faster speech rate in two languages which differ in the number of vowel contrasts they exhibit as well as in the existence of phonological vowel reduction. Results are evaluated in the light of the above-mentioned hypotheses of speech production. The instability of certain vowel contrasts in prosodically-prominent positions in Catalan, traditionally attributed to influence of Spanish, will also be discussed.

Marianna Nadeu is an Assistant Professor of Spanish and Linguistics in the Department of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese at Penn State. She holds a PhD in Romance Linguistics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she specialized in acoustic and articulatory phonetics and laboratory phonology. Her research focuses on the phonetic effects of prosody at the segmental level in Romance languages, as well as in mechanisms and processes of speech enhancement and reduction more generally. Her research and teaching interests also include historical linguistics (especially sound change), contact linguistics, and bilingualism.

This lecture is a part of the Center for Global Studies Lecture series which focuses on interdisciplinary research.

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