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LINGUIST List 25.137

Fri Jan 10 2014

Diss: Phonology: Falahati: 'Gradient and Categorical Consonant Cluster Simplification in Persian ...'

Editor for this issue: Xiyan Wang <xiyanlinguistlist.org>

Date: 09-Jan-2014
From: Reza Falahati <reza.falahatiuottawa.ca>
Subject: Gradient and Categorical Consonant Cluster Simplification in Persian: An ultrasound and acoustic study
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Institution: University of Ottawa
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2013

Author: Reza Falahati

Dissertation Title: Gradient and Categorical Consonant Cluster Simplification in Persian: An ultrasound and acoustic study

Dissertation URL: http://www.ruor.uottawa.ca/en/handle/10393/26117

Linguistic Field(s): Phonology

Dissertation Director:
Jeff Mielke

Dissertation Abstract:

The main goal of this thesis is to investigate the nature of an optional
consonant deletion process, through an articulatory and acoustic study of
word-final consonant clusters in Persian. Persian word-final coronal stops
are optionally deleted when they are preceded by obstruents or the
homorganic nasal /n/. For example, the final clusters in the words /næft/
'oil', /suχt/ 'burnt' and /qæsd/ 'intention' are optionally simplified in
fast/casual speech, resulting in: [næf], [suχ], and [qæs]. What is not
clear from this traditional description is whether the coronal stop is
truly deleted, or if a coronal gesture is produced, but not heard, because
it is obscured by the adjacent consonants. According to Articulatory
Phonology (Browman & Goldstein 1986, 1988, 1989, 1990a, 1990b, 1992, 2001),
the articulatory gestures of the deleted segments can still exist even if
the segments are not heard. In this dissertation, ultrasound imaging was
used to determine whether coronal consonant deletion in Persian is
categorical or gradient, and the acoustic consequences of cluster
simplification were investigated through duration and spectral measures.
This phonetic study enables an account for the optional nature of the
cluster simplification process.

Ten Persian-speaking graduate students from the University of Ottawa and
Carleton University, five male and five female, aged 25-38 participated in
the articulatory and acoustic study. Audio and real time ultrasound video
recordings were made while subjects had a guided conversation with a native
speaker of Persian.

662 tokens of word-final coronal clusters were auditorily classified into
unsimplified and simplified according to whether they contained an audible
[t]. Singleton coda consonants and singleton /t/s were also captured as

The end of the constriction plateau of C1 and beginning of constriction
plateau of C3 were used to define a time interval in which to measure the
coronal gesture as the vertical distance between the tongue blade and the
palate. Smoothing Splines ANOVA was used in a novel way to compare tongue
blade height over time across the three conditions.

The articulatory results of this study showed that the gestures of the
deleted segments are often still present. More specifically, the findings
showed that of the clusters that sounded simplified, some truly had no [t]
gesture, some had gestural overlap, and some had reduced gestures. In order
to explain the optional nature of the simplification process, it is argued
that the simplified tokens are the result of two independent mechanisms.
Inevitable mechanical and physiological effects generate gesturally reduced
and overlapped tokens whereas planned language-specific behaviors driven by
phonological rules or abstract cognitive representations result in no
[t]-gesture output. The findings of this study support the main arguments
presented in Articulatory Phonology regarding the underlying reasons for
sound patterns and sound change. The results of this study are further used
to examine different sound change models. It is argued that the simplified
tokens with totally deleted [t] gesture could be the result of speakers
changing their representations based on other people's gestural overlap.
This would be instances of the Choice and Chance categories in Blevins'
(2004) CCC sound change model. The acoustic results did not find any major
cues which could distinguish simplified tokens from controls. It is argued
that articulatory data should form an integral part of phonetic studies.

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