University of Pennsylvania Working Papers in Linguistics


Quilis’s (1970, 1993) instrumental work on the acoustic analysis of intrusive vowels (henceforth, IVs) in Spanish has greatly enhanced our understanding of these short, vowel-like fragments found between a Spanish tap, /r/, and its adjacent consonant. His work on IV formant structure in /Cr/ clusters suggests that IVs exhibit the same properties of the nuclear vowel. Quite surprisingly, however, no known study exists that treats the IV formant structure in heterosyllabic /rC/ clusters. The current study fills this gap in the analysis by examining the acoustic properties of IVs in Spanish /rC/ clusters and comparing them to Quilis’s (1970, 1993) findings on their /Cr/ cluster counterparts. By doing so, the study greatly contributes to linguistic research by offering empirical data from a variety of Spanish on a topic previously unattested and advances our understanding of IV formant structure. With regards to experimental design, I analyzed the acoustic properties of the IV from a corpus that includes ten subjects from Guatemala City, Guatemala; 197 /rC/ clusters were analyzed spectrographically using Praat and categorized by their flanking vowels (e.g. a_a). Subjects were recorded at a sample rate of 22,050 Hz and sample size of 16-bit. Preliminary data results suggest that the acoustic properties of IVs in /rC/ clusters are unlike those of their /Cr/ counterparts in that they are not linked to a particular nuclear vowel. The formant structure is typically that of a mid vowel, with an average F1 value of 425 and an average F2 value of 1480, regardless of the flanking vowels’ quality.

In theoretical, Articulatory Phonological (Browman and Goldstein, 1989 et seq.) terms, Gafos (2002) notes that both consonants in the tautosyllabic onset cluster have a timing relationship with the underlying (nuclear) vowel. However, Gafos (2002) also mentions that whereas a consonant in coda position has a timing relationship with its nuclear vowel, the following (heterosyllabic) consonant has a timing relationship the nuclear vowel of the following syllable. The current study’s findings are novel in that they suggest the IV in a /rC/ cluster has no apparent timing relationship with either of the neighboring nuclear vowels, as evidenced by its neutral formant structure. Thus, the findings corroborate Gafos’s (2002) notions with empirical evidence and shed new light on his view of the syllable.



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