Extending Pillai Scores to Fricative Mergers: Advancing a Gradient Analysis of a Split-in-Progress in Andalusian Spanish

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University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics
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Regan, Brendan

While vocalic mergers and splits have been analyzed acoustically since the inception of variationist sociolinguistics (Labov 1994, Labov et al. 1972, Labov et al. 1991), consonant mergers and splits have principally been analyzed impressionistically. Andalusian Spanish presents such a case wherein the fricative mergers ceceo and seseo, and their ongoing split into distinción, have been extensively documented via impressionistic analysis documenting the role of social and linguistic factors (García-Amaya 2008, Melguizo 2007, Moya Corral and García-Wiedemann 1995, Regan 2017a, Santana 2016, 2016-207, Villena 1996), but there has been a lack of studies that acoustically analyze the gradience of this consonant demerger. In order to fill this gap, the current study utilizes a Pillai score analysis on a fricative split-in-progress in Andalusian Spanish, building on previous acoustic studies (Lasarte Cervantes 2010, Regan 2017b, in press a, in press b). The aims were two-fold: (i) to provide researchers a gradient sociophonetic approach to analyze the demerger of ceceo (or seseo) into distinción that can complement previous acoustic analyses; and (ii) to extend the use of Pillai scores to fricatives in order to incorporate consonant mergers and splits into the larger variationist discussion of mergers and splits as it is heavily biased towards English vowels (Gordon 2013). The study, based on read speech includes 19,420 tokens from 80 speakers, ages 18-87 (M: 43.7, SD: 17.2), balanced for gender (40 male, 40 female) and origin (40 Huelva, 40 Lepe). Independent variables included gender, age, education, occupation, origin, style, orthography, and following phonological context with speaker as a random factor. The acoustic measures considered in the creation of the Pillai scores were center of gravity (Hz), variance (Hz), skewness, and mean intensity (dB). The best explanation of the data was the Pillai score that incorporated only center of gravity and mean intensity, taking into consideration following phonological context. A mixed-effects linear regression found that this apparent time (Labov 1994:45) change in progress of ceceo into distinción is led by those with more formal education (secondary or university education), those employed in service or professionally oriented occupations, females, and in more formal styles. The current paper therefore extends the use of the Pillai score into a fricative split-in-progress, simultaneously advancing the sociophonetic analysis of Andalusian fricatives as well as providing a non-English and non-vocalic example to diversify the variationist discussion of mergers and splits.

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