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Synchronic evidence of a diachronic change: Voicing and duration in French and Spanish stop-liquid clusters

  • Laura Colantoni (a1) and Jeffrey Steele (a1)


This article investigates the role that the phonetic parameters of duration and voicing play in shaping asymmetric patterns of Romance stop-liquid cluster realization. Based on acoustic analysis of experimental data from Quebec French and Argentine Spanish, we demonstrate the existence of an asymmetry in the proportional duration of the stop and a following epenthetic vowel or lateral: sonorants are shorter after voiceless stops in stop-liquid clusters. Rhotics do not participate in this process. The Spanish tap does not vary significantly in length, and the French dorsal fricative is longer in voiceless clusters. We propose that compensatory adjustments of the following sonorant are the result of the interaction of coarticulatory constraints, both universal (shorter sonorants after voiceless stops or fricatives) and language-specific (voicing in dorsal fricatives in French). Parallels are drawn between the synchronic variation attested and well-known patterns of diachronic change in Romance.


Le présent article examine le rôle que jouent deux paramètres phonétiques, soit la durée et le voisement, dans la réalisation asymétrique des groupes consonantiques occlusive-liquide dans les langues romanes. À partir d’une analyse acoustique de données expérimentales du français québécois et de l’espagnol argentin, nous démontrons qu’il existe une asymétrie dans la durée proportionnelle des occlusives et de certains segments qui les suivent (voyelles latérales ou épenthétiques) : les sonantes sont plus courtes après les occlusives sourdes. Les rhotiques ne participent pas à ce processus. La durée de la vibrante battue de l’espagnol ne varie pas de façon significative, et la fricative dorsale du français est plus longue lorsqu’elle fait partie d’un groupe consonantique sourd. Nous proposons que l’ajustement compensatoire des sonantes résulte de l’interaction entre des contraintes coarticulatoires tant universelle (sonantes plus courtes après occlusives ou fricatives sourdes) que propre à une seule langue (voisement des fricatives dorsales en français). Enfin, nous dégageons des parallèles entre la variation synchronique observée et certains changements diachroniques bien connus.



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