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Revitalizing Endangered Languages

Edited by Justyna Olko & Julia Sallabank

Revitalizing Endangered Languages "This guidebook provides ideas and strategies, as well as some background, to help with the effective revitalization of endangered languages. It covers a broad scope of themes including effective planning, benefits, wellbeing, economic aspects, attitudes and ideologies."

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Dissertation Information

Title: The Phonetics and Phonology of Brazilian Portuguese [ATR] Harmony Add Dissertation
Author: Magnun Madruga Update Dissertation
Email: click here to access email
Institution: Universidade Estadual de Campinas, Linguistics
Completed in: 2017
Linguistic Subfield(s): Phonetics; Phonology;
Subject Language(s): Portuguese
Director(s): Silke Hamann
Maria Bernadete Abaurre

Abstract: This study analyzes pre-stressed vowels that undergo vowel harmony in Brazilian Portuguese. Based on the analysis of the Gaucho and Baiano dialects, this work provides an acoustic description of pre-stressed and stressed vowels involved in vowel harmony. This subject is relevant because of the limited amount of acoustic-phonetic studies of this phenomenon in the literature, particularly of the role of low vowels in triggering vowel harmony, as well as the role of adjacent consonants. This study investigates the harmony patterns found by Abaurre-Gnerre (1981), a phenomenon which is hypothesized in this research as a process of harmony governed by the feature [ATR]. For this purpose, we developed a reading experiment with six participants (3 men and 3 women) from each dialect. The acoustic-phonetic analysis of the vowels was based on the measurements of the first and second formants (F1 and F2) of the pre-stressed and stressed vowels. From the acoustic description of the whole set of Brazilian Portuguese vowels, we found that the vowel harmony targets /e/ and /o/ are affected primarily by the low vowels /ɛ, a, ɔ/, which can be considered the triggers. From the experimental results, we developed a method called Vowel Threshold, which is based on measurements of F1 and F2 to estimate thresholds of vowel categories in the acoustic space and therefore map the movements of raising, lowering, vowel-fronting and vowel-backing in vowel production. This method reduces the values of F1 and F2 to a scale that has zero as the reference point, which would be considered the expected value for the token of a vowel if there were no biases introduced by the V-to-V coarticulation, by the intervening consonants or other process related to speech. With this measurement, a critical value is stipulated to determine whether a vowel has undergone intra-category or inter-category movements. The results of the analysis of the Vowel Threshold measurements showed that the vowels /e, o/ of all subjects do not tend to be raised to [i, u], rather they are lowered to [ɛ, ɔ] by speakers of both the Gaucho and Baiano dialects. Moreover, the experimental results show that: (1) the preceding consonants have no effect of lowering or raising in the vowels /e, o/; (2) the intervening sounding consonants are transparent to the lowering in the two dialects, while the obstruents appear to be opaque in the Gaucho dialect; (3) there is a dissimilatory process in Baiano that does not seem to be a disharmony, but indicates a tendency for intra-category lowering, motivated by the disagreement in [back] of the target and the trigger. The work also presents a re-analysis of the Bisol (1981) and Barbosa da Silva (1989) corpora in order to examine the process of [+high] harmony verified by those authors to discuss the supremacy of this sort of harmony in Brazilian Portuguese in contrast with the experimental results found in this work. Finally, this study shows that the BP [ATR] harmony seems to be the active harmony in Brazilian Portuguese; and as evidence for this, arguments from phonology-morphology interaction, vowel contrastiveness, secondary stress assignment, and orthography biasing in the analysis of vowel harmony are brought into the discussion. It is argued that there is a consonantal blocking effect of [+high] harmony motivated by certain preceding consonants to the target vowels. Evidence of [+high] harmony avoidance is also found in the sociolinguistic literature that shows a decreasing application of such harmonization according to the age and education of the speakers.