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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/31859

Title: Experimental Approaches to Sound Variation: a Sociophonetic Study of Labial and Velar Fricatives and Approximants in Argentine Spanish
Authors: Mazzaro, Natalia
Advisor: Colantoni, Laura
Department: Spanish
Keywords: Spanish
Issue Date: 10-Jan-2012
Abstract: The alternation between labial and velar fricatives (e.g. [x]uego fuego ‘fire’) and labial and velar approximants (e.g. a[ɣ]uelo abuelo ‘grandfather’) frequently co-occur in disparate Spanish dialects (Colombia, New Mexico, El Salvador, Ecuador, Chile, among others). I hypothesize that these alternations are triggered by the perceptual similarity between such variants in the context of [u] and [w]. I further hypothesize that the spread of these variables to the upper layers of society is prevented by formal education, since orthography can block sound change. Although the labio-velar alternations have been observed before, there are few experimental studies addressing their acoustic and perceptual motivations. Yet, the only way to understand the mechanisms of sound variation and change is to analyze the physical, acoustic and perceptual characteristics of the sounds involved. This dissertation uniquely combines three methodologies of data elicitation in order to achieve a better understanding of the alternations. Vernacular speech was collected through sociolinguistic interviews. Contextually controlled target words were elicited via a picture naming task. Finally, the hypothesis that the alternations were driven by the perceptual similarity between the sounds was tested via an AX discrimination test. The sociolinguistic data was correlated with the results from the perception experiment to determine whether more variation in speech correlates with higher rates of confusion in perception. The results reveal that Education and Following Context are two of the most powerful factor groups that influence the alternations. The alternation is almost exclusively found before the diphthongs [we, wi], and in stressed syllables. Knowing the orthography plays an important role in blocking the diffusion of this perceptually driven variation. The same factors affecting the variation in sociolinguistics interviews were found to be significant in increasing the confusion between [f] ~ [x] and [β] ~ [ɣ] in the perception experiment. The acoustic analysis (centre of gravity and F2 at vowel onset), however, did not support the hypothesis regarding the similarity of labial and velar fricatives and approximants.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/31859
Appears in Collections:Doctoral

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