LINGUIST List 13.835

Tue Mar 26 2002

Diss: Phonetics: Lewis "Weakening of..."

Editor for this issue: Karolina Owczarzak <>


  1. amlewi02, Phonetics: Lewis "Weakening of intervocalic /p, t, k/"

Message 1: Phonetics: Lewis "Weakening of intervocalic /p, t, k/"

Date: Tue, 26 Mar 2002 12:18:39 +0000
From: amlewi02 <>
Subject: Phonetics: Lewis "Weakening of intervocalic /p, t, k/"

New Dissertation Abstract

Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Program: Department of Spanish, Italian and Portugese
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2001

Author: Anthony M Lewis 

Dissertation Title: 
Weakening of intervocalic /p, t, k/ in two Spanish dialects: Toward the
quantification of lenition processes

Linguistic Field: 
Phonology, Phonetics

Subject Language: 

Dissertation Director 1: Jose Ignacio Hualde
Dissertation Director 2: Daniel Silverman
Dissertation Director 3: Jennifer Cole
Dissertation Director 4: Ana Maria Escobar

Diss Abstract: 

Traditional accounts of the voiceless stops in Spanish report a rather
straightforward allophony in which /p, t, k/ are phonetically realized
as [p, t, k] in all contexts. A number of recent studies, however,
indicate a much wider range of allophonic variation in which /p, t, k/
are produced with varying degrees of phonetic voicing and occasionally
as voiced approximants, most often in the intervocalic context and in
informal speech.

An experiment was conducted in which speakers from two dialects,
Central Colombian and Northern Spain, produced speech in three styles:
conversational, reading of text, and from a list of words.
Productions of intervocalic /p, t, k/ were submitted to acoustic
analysis considering four independent variables: speech style, place
of articulation, lexical accent, and position in the word. Five
acoustic correlates were measured: closure duration, voice onset time,
closure voicing, intensity relative to the flanking vowels, and the
conservation of release bursts.

The results suggest that speech style and lexical accent strongly
influence the values obtained for some of the acoustic correlates, and
that certain correlates are more reliable indicators of stop lenition
than others. In addition, the Northern Spanish dialect was determined
to be in a more advanced stage of lenition than the Central Colombian
dialect. This result leads to the interpretation that different
dialects of Spanish are found at different points along a stop
lenition continuum ranging from fortis to lenis.

The dissertation concludes with a discussion of the implications of
the experiment's results on our present understanding of stop
implementation in Spanish, and suggested avenues for future research.
These include the proposal of a method by which the imperfect
relationship between speech style and speech rate may be better
understood, the consideration of the abruptness and degree of changes
in relative intensity values in a vowel - stop consonant - vowel
sequence as a potential metric by which stop lenition may be
quantified, and finally, the application of a similar experimental
method to the voiced stops /b, d, g/ in order to gain insight into the
nature by which phonological contrast is upheld in the Spanish stop
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