LINGUIST List 9.766

Thu May 21 1998

Sum: Spanish vowel duration

Editor for this issue: Elaine Halleck <>


  1. Travis Bradley, Sum: Spanish vowel duration

Message 1: Sum: Spanish vowel duration

Date: Thu, 21 May 1998 12:06:08 -0400
From: Travis Bradley <>
Subject: Sum: Spanish vowel duration

Dear Linguists,

We recently posted a query about references regarding the duration of
tonic and atonic vowels in general Spanish. We received responses
from David Gohre, Anne Cutler, Rafael Marin, and Holly Nibert. A
summary of responses follows:

- > David Gohre suggested Benjamin P. Sanders (1993 or 1994) dissertation
at UIUC on Andalusian Vowel Harmony and Related Processes, which gives a
detailed analysis on stressed and unstressed Vs.

- > Anne Cutler suggested her cross-linguistic study in Perception &
Psychophysics, 58 (6), 1996, pp 807-822, which deals with reaction time to
respond to vowels in (british) English and (Castilian) Spanish. She
summarizes the findings:

"We found a systematic relation between vowel duration and RT
in our study (in the unexpected direction - the longer the
vowel, the faster the RT).

Stressed vowels in our materials were longer (at a mean of
153 ms) than unstressed (mean 138 ms), but this difference
was swamped by the much more significant effect of word
position: vowels in first syllables averaged 119 ms, vowels
in second (final syllables 172 ms."

- > Rafael Marin has two papers on Spanish vowel duration which are
available at:

He also suggested some 'standard' references:

Borzone y Signorini (1983). Segmental duration and rhytm in Spanish, Journal 
of Phonetics, 11, pp. 117-128.

Macarron, Escalada and Rodriguez (1991). Generation of duration rules for a
text-to-speech synthesizer, Proceedings of Eurospeech'91, pp. 617-620.

Navarro-Tomas (1916). Cantidad de las vocales acentuadas, Revista de Filologia
Espanyola (RFE), III, pp. 387-407.

Navarro-Tomas (1917). Cantidad de las vocales inacentuadas, RFE, IV, pp. 

- > Holly Nibert suggested an article by Pilar Prieto & Jan van Santen,
"Acoustic Cues of Secondary Stress in Spanish," published in Journal of
Phonetics, probably in 1995 or 1996. The authors cite two studies of
stressed/unstressed vowel durations: Borzone, et. al (1983) in J. of
Phonetics 11:117-128, on Argentinian, and Monroy-Casas (1980), on
Peninsular. Both studies show a consistent 20-30 ms. difference between
the tonic and atonic vowels.

Thank you for your helpful responses!

Travis Bradley
Erin O'Rourke
The Pennsylvania State University

Travis Bradley
Co-director, Language 3 Initiative
College of Liberal Arts
The Pennsylvania State University
3A Sparks Building
University Park, PA 16802
(814) 863-4388
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