Non-Segmental Conditioning of Sibilant Variation in American English
Proceedings of the 18th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, 2018
5 Pages Posted: 13 May 2020
Date Written: 2018
Variation, both between and within speakers, is ubiquitous in language. Examining and understanding this variation is crucial not only to questions of socio-linguistics and sound change but also to the study of prosody and phonology more broadly. The present study contributes to the literature on inter and intra-speaker variation in speech production, examining the phonetic realization of prevocalic /s/ in American English using recordings from a longitudinal phonetic corpus of oral arguments before the Supreme Court of the United States. Specifically, this study examines the role of non-segmental factors conditioning the observed variation, focusing on prosodic prominence, segment duration, phonological contrast and lexical frequency. Significant effects for segment duration, speakers’ average /sh/ centroid frequency and word position were observed, with higher centroid frequency values observed in instances of /s/ with a longer relative duration, in word-initial positions, or for speakers with a higher mean /sh/ centroid frequency. There was also significant individual variation in the effects of duration, prosodic prominence and phonological contrast.
These results provide further evidence for place of articulation contrast strengthening in prominent positions with novel evidence for place of articulation contrast strengthening in sibilants.
Keywords: Corpus Phonetics, Inter-Speaker Variation, Intraspeaker Variation, Prominence, Lexical Frequency
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