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The phonetics and phonology of lexical prosody in San Jerónimo Acazulco Otomi

  • Rory Turnbull (a1)

San Jerónimo Acazulco Otomi (SJAO) is an underdescribed and endangered Oto-Manguean language spoken in central Mexico. This paper provides an analysis of the phonology of tonal contrasts in SJAO and the phonetics of their realization based on pitch pattern data derived from audio recordings of citation forms of SJAO words. Each SJAO lexical word has one and only one tonal sequence – either /H/ or /HL/. This sequence is underlyingly associated with one syllable in the word. Other syllables are not specified for tone, and their phonetic realization is predictable depending on their position relative to the tonal syllable. A phonetic analysis revealed that underlyingly-tonal syllables are phonetically distinct from non-tonal syllables: those with /H/ are produced with greater vocal effort (measured by spectral tilt), and those with /HL/ are longer, louder, and bear a higher f0 (fundamental frequency), compared with non-tonal syllables. This analysis differs from previous accounts of lexical prosody in other Otomi varieties, which have either described a three-way system of high, low, and rising tones contrasting on every stem syllable, or a system where one syllable per word is assigned a stress-like ‘accent’. This difference from previous analyses suggests that there is a third possible characterization of lexical prosody for Otomi, which is appropriate for SJAO and potentially other understudied varieties.

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