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The gradient nature of s-lenition in Caleño Spanish

  • Richard J. File-Muriel (a1) and Earl K. Brown (a2)

Whereas previous studies of Spanish s-weakening have relied on impressionistic coding, the present study examines temporal and gradient acoustic details in the production of /s/ by eight females from Cali, Colombia, during sociolinguistic interviews. We propose a metric for quantifying s-realization by employing three scalar-dependent variables: s-duration, centroid, and voicelessness. The results of linear regressions indicate that the dependent variables are significantly conditioned by local speaking rate, word position, following and preceding phonological context, stress, and lexical frequency. This study sheds light on how each independent variable influences s-realization acoustically. For example, as local speaking rate increases, duration, centroid, and voicelessness decrease, which is indicative of lenition, and the same weakening tendency is observed when /s/ occurs in word-final position or is followed by a nonhigh vowel, whereas frequency contributes only to s-duration. We discuss the advantages of opting for instrumental measurements over symbolic representation.

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Language Variation and Change
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