Prosodic strengthening on the /s/-stop cluster and the phonetic implementation of an allophonic rule in English

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Abstract

This acoustic study investigates effects of boundary and prominence on the temporal structure of s#CV and #sCV in English, and on the phonetic implementation of the allophonic rule whereby a voiceless stop after /s/ becomes unaspirated. Results obtained with acoustic temporal measures for /sCV/ sequences showed that the segments at the source of prosodic strengthening (i.e., /s/ in #sCV for boundary marking and the nucleus vowel for prominence marking) were expanded in both absolute and relational terms, whereas other durational components distant from the source (e.g., stop closure duration in #sCV) showed temporal expansion only in the absolute measure. This suggests that speakers make an extra effort to expand the very first segment and the nucleus vowel more than the rest of the sequence in order to signal the pivotal loci of the boundary vs. the prominence information. The potentially ambiguous s#CV and #sCV sequences (e.g., ice#can vs. eye#scan) were never found to be neutralized even in the phrase-internal condition, cuing the underlying syllable structures with fine phonetic detail. Most crucially, an already short lag VOT in #sCV (due to the allophonic rule) was shortened further under prosodic strengthening, which was interpreted as enhancement of the phonetic feature {voiceless unaspirated}. It was proposed that prosodic strengthening makes crucial reference to the phonetic feature system of the language and operates on a phonetic feature, including the one derived by a language-specific allophonic rule. An alternative account was also discussed in gestural terms in the framework of Articulatory Phonology. © 2014 The Authors.

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Cho, T., Lee, Y., & Kim, S. (2014). Prosodic strengthening on the /s/-stop cluster and the phonetic implementation of an allophonic rule in English. Journal of Phonetics, 46(1), 128–146. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.wocn.2014.06.003

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