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Review of  Selected Proceedings of the 4th Conference on Laboratory Approaches to Spanish Phonology

Reviewer: Sara Candeias
Book Title: Selected Proceedings of the 4th Conference on Laboratory Approaches to Spanish Phonology
Book Author: Marta Ortega-Llebaria
Publisher: Cascadilla Press
Linguistic Field(s): Phonology
Subject Language(s): English
Issue Number: 22.3053

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EDITOR: Marta Ortega-Llebaria
TITLE: Selected Proceedings of the 4th Conference on Laboratory Approaches to
Spanish Phonology
SERIES TITLE: Cascadilla Proceedings Project
PUBLISHER: Cascadilla Press
YEAR: 2010

Sara Candeias, Institute of Telecommunications, University of Coimbra


The Selected Proceedings of the 4th Conference on Laboratory Approaches to
Spanish Phonology provides an important contribution to the state of the art of
Spanish phonological analysis, including both European and American varieties,
as well as the speech of monolinguals and bilinguals. The first two
contributions are plenary talks and the others are grouped into three main
domains: bilingual speech, prosody, and segments and clusters.

Laura Bosch, in The Acquisition of Language-Specific Sound Categories from a
Bilingual Input (pp. 1-10), reviews the main results obtained in phonetic
discrimination and categorization studies with Spanish-Catalan and
English-French bilingual infants. Current knowledge of their tuning to the
specific categories in their ambient languages is summarized and the role of
different factors in bilinguals' phonetic categorization and phonological
representation processes is discussed. The data for this study is relatively
limited and thus conditions the results achieved, as the author admits. However,
differences between bilinguals and monolinguals could be interpreted as adaptive
to the specific properties of their linguistic input, rather than delays in
speech acquisition.

José Ignacio Hualde, in the Secondary Stress and Stress Clash in Spanish (pp.
11-19), examines the distribution of secondary stress in Spanish, focusing on
the possibility of placing prominence on the syllable immediately preceding the
lexically stressed syllable of the word. This possibility is not included in
most previous analyses of secondary stress in Spanish. Four speakers of
Peninsular Spanish participated in the experiment, reading a list of words
following an auditory prompt. The data was analysed in terms of pitch, intensity
and duration. Results showed that prominence was conveyed by different acoustic
cues (such as the pitch accent and the durational stress) on lexically stressed
and secondarily stressed syllables.

Characterizing the Speech of Bilinguals
This section presented three studies of Spanish dialects spoken in bilingual
environments: Dialect Differences and the Bilingual Vowel Space in Peruvian
Spanish, Erin O'Rourke (pp. 20-30); Are Non-Cognate Words Phonologically Better
Specified than Cognates in the Early Lexicon of Bilingual Children?, Marta
Ramon-Casas and Laura Bosch (pp. 31-36); and Rating Accented Speech on Continua:
Nativeness in Speech Production in Highly Proficient Bilinguals, Miquel Simonet
(pp. 37-46).

In his study, O'Rourke discusses the view that the quality of Spanish vowels is
relatively stable across Spanish dialects compared to consonants. He examined
first and second formants (F1 and F2) of vowels from some read sentences in
order to address the following research questions: ''(1) To what extent are
regional differences observed in Peruvian Spanish vowels?, (2) Within the Andean
region, are there differences in vowel quality according to knowledge of
Quechua?, and if so, (3) Do Quechua-Spanish bilinguals organize their vowel
space differently than Spanish monolinguals (e.g., in terms of spacing between
vowel qualities or backness)?'' (p. 21). Statistical analyses were conducted and
conclusions suggested that vowel quality in Spanish may be influenced by
languages in contact, with early bilinguals behaving differently from both the
Cuzco monolinguals and late bilinguals.

Marta Ramon-Casas and Laura Bosch follow up on their previous lab research
showing that bilingual exposure has specific consequences for the phonological
detail represented in early words. The goal was to explore the impact of the
cognate status of word in Catalan-Spanish bilinguals' encoding of the /ɛ/-/e/
vowel contrast. Four target non-cognate Catalan words were used as stimulus and
the procedure to explore the accuracy and precision in the word recognition was
the intermodal visual fixation methodology. 48 children participated in the
experiments (24 Catalan monolinguals and 24 Catalan-Spanish bilinguals). Results
indicate that all the participants successfully detected the mispronunciation in
non-cognate items, suggesting that cognate status does affect the detail encoded
in the representation of words in bilinguals' early lexicons. The authors also
suggest that phonological differences between non-cognate words may facilitate
the building of more stable representations and preserve them from the effects
of input variability.

The last paper of this set supports the common finding that speech performance
in bilinguals is really affected both by the age of first exposure to their
second language and by linguistic experience. Simonet presents a study of
overall native vs. non-native accent of both Catalan-dominant and
Spanish-dominant speakers in both Catalan and Spanish. Using read-aloud speech
material and perceptual rating tests based on the Visual Analog Scale, he
arrives at the following main conclusions: (1) ''Catalan-dominant listeners have
no difficulty in robustly discriminating between Catalan-dominant and
Spanish-dominant bilinguals speaking Catalan''; (2) ''Spanish-dominant listeners
can robustly discriminate between Spanish-dominant and Catalan-dominant
bilinguals speaking Spanish'' and (3) ''Spanish-dominant listeners had a slightly
higher difficulty discriminating between Catalan-dominant and Spanish-dominant
females than between Catalan-dominant and Spanish-dominant males when the
talkers were speaking Spanish''(p. 43). The method to assess non-native accent on
a linear, continuous scale was explained and presented as new.

This section contains four studies of prosodic constituents in Spanish dialects,
including Buenos Aires Spanish, Madrilenian and Mexican: The Intonational
Expression of Incredulity in Absolute Interrogatives in Buenos Aires Spanish, Su
Ar Lee, Fernando MartÆnez-Gil, and Mary E. Beckman (pp. 47-56); The Perceptual
Relevance of Code Switching and Intonation in Creating Narrow Focus, Daniel
Olson and Marta Ortega-Llebaria (pp. 57-68); Final Lengthening and Pause
Duration in Three Dialects of Spanish, Rajiv Rao (pp. 69-82); and Acoustic
Comparative Study of Spanish Prosody: Mexico City vs. Madrid, Eduardo Velçzquez
(pp. 83-90).

Lee, Martínez-Gil, and Beckman explore how Buenos Aires Spanish speakers express
the difference between pragmatically-neutral and presumptive interrogatives,
analysing 10 target questions recorded from three female speakers. Results
showed that ''the difference between pragmatically-marked and
pragmatically-neutral absolute interrogatives can be expressed by using an
expansion of the global pitch range values or by using the contour with a
falling boundary pitch movements (BPM) with a higher pitch value in the first
peak and in the nuclear peak'' (p. 53).

Olson and Ortega-Llebaria look to provide empirical evidence that code switching
serves to create a narrow focus interpretation, and examined the interaction of
these two forms of creating narrow focus. A laboratory-based perception task
with early and late Spanish-English bilinguals was conducted. The main findings
indicated that (1) the code switching has a clear narrow effect, most evident in
the absence of other prosodic cues; and (2) the salience of the peak alignment
cue is dependent upon a sufficient pitch range.

Dealing with syllable and word duration in final position of intonation phrases
(IPs) and phonological phrase (PPHs), Rao's study (1) empirically examines
whether or not final lengthening does exist in Spanish in stressed and final
syllables and words in phrase final position; (2) statistically showed how much
lengthening occurs; (3) investigated whether pause length correlates with
increased lengthening. The main results revealed that (1) final lengthening is
observed in all constituents significantly across dialects at the ends of PPHs
and IPs; (2) across speakers and dialects, lengthening is greatest when a short
pause associated with a PPH boundary is present.

Velázquez' research attempted to identify the acoustic factors that play a role
in the characterization of Madrilenian and Mexican, as well as verify the
validity of empirical judgments about prosodic differences among language
varieties. Using the method proposed, it is verified that Mexican speech has (1)
longer syllables, (2) a lower and more regular intensity and (3) a
higher-pitched voice register, compared to Madrilenian speech.

Segments and Clusters
This section presented the following four studies about Spanish dialects such as
Majorcan, Argentinean and Andalusian: Final Consonant Clusters in Majorcan
Catalan Verbs: The Resolution of Sonority Sequence Principle Violations through
Cluster Simplification, Mark Amengual and Cynthia P. Blanco (pp.91-99); The
Scope of Stop Weakening in Argentine Spanish, Laura Colantoni and Irina
Marinescu (pp.100-114); Acoustic Characterization of Phonemic Trill Production
in Jerezano Andalusian Spanish, Nicholas C. Henriksen and Erik W. Willis
(pp.115-127); Changing Perceptions: The Sociophonetic Motivations of the Labial
Velar Alternation in Spanish, Natalia Mazzaro (pp.128-145).

Amengual and Blanco attempt to explain the variation between cluster
simplification and cluster maintenance for the Majorcan Catalan. Clusters of up
to three consonants were studied in verb forms. Performing a multivariate
analysis of the data using Goldvarb X, the authors explain which
extragrammatical factors affected the choice of one variant over the other,
including social and linguistic variables. The results achieved showed that
there is a tendency for MC speakers to simplify clusters.

Colantoni and Marinescu pick up on previous work and explore some acoustic
correlates of lenition, analysing the status of CV intensity-ratio, duration and
percentage voicing in Argentine Spanish. The results achieved proposed that both
phonological and phonetic factors should be considered in order to account for
lenition processes. In fact, it was shown that there are: (1) clear place
asymmetries in lenition process; (2) no evidence of lenition of voiceless stops;
(3) some support for perceptual accounts of lenition; (4) the need of
integrating articulatory constraints into a model of lenition, presenting
evidence of the role of tongue-coarticulation.

Henriksen and Willis' study examined the extent to which the articulation of the
Spanish phonemic trill is subject to variation in unscripted speech samples
taken from 16 native speakers of Andalusian Spanish. The main results indicate
that acoustic findings have implications for phonetics, phonology, dialectal
studies, and sociolinguistics. In fact, given the findings of the current
investigation described (e.g. no single non-canonical variant could be selected
as the prototypical one), trill variation is shown to be considerably more
complex than had previously been suspected.

Mazzaro investigated the acoustic and perceptual motivations of the labial velar
alternation in a diverse set of Spanish dialects. By analysing data from
sociolinguistic interviews and production and perception experiments, the aim
was to study both the causes and the propagation of the linguistic phenomenon.
With the present study, the author explained the perceptual and acoustic
motivations of the labial-velar alternation emphasising that the science of
linguistics advances by examining the language in its social and cultural context.

This book is representative of the state of the art of laboratory approaches to
Spanish phonology and all the contributions are contribute to Spanish
linguistics, given that a range of varieties were analysed. At the same time it
presents a variety of approaches taken with respect to how phonetics influences
phonology. Most of the studies tested their hypotheses by means of phonetic
experiments, using PRAAT, which complements more traditional approaches. The
papers thus follow the line of linguistic research that linguistic theories
should be implementable.

However, a possible weakness of this research is that most of the data was
collected from a small group of informants (some studies draw data from 3, 4 or
6 speakers) the phenomena analysed could be broadened by further complementary
verification. Although access to higher technology can still be difficult, it
would be useful to extend the studies using speak recognition techniques, such
as automatic phone recognition. Based on a larger database and using
complementary methods of analysis on speech processing, the research presented
here could further linguistic analysis and reinforce developing linguistic
science technologies, which allow a more natural human-machine interaction.

In my view, strategies that can support or accelerate efforts to develop speech
resources need to include sets of phonological rules. The studies presented in
this book, following the suggestions, could be regarded as an important step in
that direction.

Sara Candeias is a postdoctoral researcher in linguistics in the Speech Lab of the Institute Telecommunications at the University of Coimbra ( Her primary research areas are varieties of Portuguese and the development of grapheme-to-phone conversion systems, using multiple pronunciations, as well as phonetic and functional approaches to phonology and the improvement of speech technology based on linguistic knowledge. She is also studying hesitations (such as filled pauses, extensions and repetitions) to describe events and to incorporate them into automatic recognition of newscasters' speech, work supported by European and Portuguese grants. She is also beginning work on automatic speaker recognition for forensic evidence evaluation, with the Forensic Voi

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