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Summary Details

Query:   Initial/final lengthening in Italian and Hungarian
Author:  Laurence White
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Phonetics

Summary:   I posted the following query to the Linguist List on 4th June 2004:
''I'm looking for references, unpublished data, etc. regarding the lengthening of speech segments word-initially and word-finally in Italian and Hungarian, having found little so far in the (English language) literature. I'm interested both in production data describing the magnitude and locus of each effect, and in perception experiments on the use of lengthening as a cue to word boundaries.

''References to perception experiments on these word segmentation cues in other languages would also be of interest. I'll post a summary.''

Many thanks to all those who have provided me with information on these subjects:
- Pier Marco Bertinetto
- Rebeka Campos-Astorkiza
- Mariapaola D'Imperio
- M?ria G?sy
- Wouter Jansen
- Mark Jones
- Susannah Levi
- Kristie McCrary
- Elinor Payne
- Mario Saltarelli
- Mary Stevens

1. Italian production studies.

The respondents on word-initial lengthening alluded to the specific case of raddoppiamento (fono)sintattico (RF), the lengthening/gemination of a word-initial consonant when preceded by a stressed word-final vowel. This phenomenon occurs widely in non-Northern dialects of Italian and has generated a large body of syntactic and phonological literature, but little phonetic analysis. Recent production experiments provide quantitative data, however (McCrary 2004; Payne 2000, 2004; Campos-Astorkiza 2004). In addition, D'Imperio & Gili Fivela (2003) examine both RF and final-vowel lengthening at clause boundaries.

- McCrary, K. (2004). Reassessing the role of the syllable in Italian phonology: an experimental study of consonant cluster syllabification, definite article allomorphy and segment duration. University of California, Los Angeles PhD dissertation (
- Payne, E. (2000). Consonant gemination in Italian: phonetic evidence for a fortition continuum. University of Cambridge PhD dissertation.
- Payne, E. (2004). The structural impact of phonetic detail: Italian consonant gemination revisited. In L. Astruc & M. Richards (Eds.), Cambridge Occasional Papers in Linguistics 1:165-181.
- Campos-Astorkiza, R. (2004). What is raddoppiamento? Prosody and length in Italian. 34th Linguistics Symposium on Romance Languages (
- D'Imperio, M., & Gili Fivela, B. (2003). How many levels of phrasing? Evidence from two varieties of Italian. In J. Local, R. Ogden & R. Temple (Eds.), Phonetic Interpretation: Papers in Laboratory Phonology 6. Cambridge University Press.

Another group working on RF have data from spontaneous speech:

- Absalom, M., Stevens, M., & Hajek, J. (2002). A typology of spreading, insertion and deletion or What you weren't told about word-initial gemination in Italian. In Proceedings of the 2002 Conference of the Australian Linguistics Society, Sydney, July 10-12 2002
- Hajek, J. & Stevens, M. (Forthcoming). Raddoppiamento sintattico and word-medial gemination in Italian: Are they the same or are they different? The evidence from spontaneous speech. In Proceedings of the 34th Annual Linguistic Symposium in Romance Languages.

Farnetani & Kiro (1986) allude to the somewhat greater duration of word-initial consonants than word-medial consonants in the general case rather than specifically in RF-contexts. It may be inferred that this lengthening is a smaller effect than RF-type lengthening.

- Farnetani, E., & Kiro, S. (1986). Effects of syllable and word structure on segmental durations in spoken Italian. Speech Communication, 5, 17-34.

2. Hungarian production studies.

There appears to be little in the English language literature on Hungarian initial and final lengthening, but Hungarian language publications do provide data indicating that, for some phone classes, word-initial lengthening may be observed in words in citation form, but not in sentence context (G?sy 2004). Affricates, however, manifest some word-initial lengthening in sentence context (Kov?cs 2002).

- G?sy, M. (2004). Fonetika, a besz?d tudom?nya (Phonetics, the Science of Speech). Osiris Kiad?: Budapest.
- Kov?cs, M. (2002). Az affrik?t?k idoszerkezet?rol (On the time structure of affricates). In H. L?szl? (Ed.), K?s?rleti fonetika, laborat?riumi fonol?gia (Experimental phonetics, laboratory phonology). Kossuth Egytemi Kiad?: Debrecen.

With regard to final lengthening, the only reference uncovered reports that phrase-final lengthening is attenuated in languages, such as Hungarian, in which duration serves to contrast phonemic identity.

- McRobbie-Utasi, Z. (2003). Boundary signaling in relation to temporal pattern differences: the relevance of the role of duration. In Proceedings of the 15th International Congress of the Phonetic Sciences, Barcelona.

3. Italian and Hungarian perception studies.

For both Italian and Hungarian, perceptual studies regarding the role of duration as a cue to word boundaries appear to be lacking.

Comments, questions and further information are most welcome.

LL Issue: 15.2323
Date Posted: 17-Aug-2004
Original Query: Read original query


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