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An acoustical analysis of the merger of /ɲ/ and /nj/ in Buenos Aires Spanish

  • Silvina Bongiovanni (a1)

Abstract

Buenos Aires Spanish (BAS) is well known for the sound change that led the palatal obstruent to become a post-alveolar fricative. However, that obstruent is not the only palatal phoneme undergoing sound change in BAS. The present study investigates the production of /ɲ/ and /nj/ in BAS, which have been reported as merging (Malmberg 1950). Previous research suggests that some speakers produce a ‘traditional’ (alveolo)palatal nasal, while other speakers realize /ɲ/ with two distinct non-simultaneous constrictions: alveolar/postalveolar and palatal (Kochetov & Colantoni 2011). An acoustic analysis is based on the speech of 33 speakers (15 males, 17 females; from four age groups: 15–19 years old, 20–29 years, 30–45 years and 45+ years) and was obtained by measuring duration and formant contours in the tautosyllabic vocalic portion. Results reveal that /ɲ/ and /nj/ are not fully merged, as some speakers produce differences. Specifically, the results indicate that production differences between men and women disappear as age decreases, with female speakers being more innovative. Findings provide evidence that the sound change is still progressing and probably nearing completion, and show that the palatal system in BAS is losing the (alveolo)palatal nasal.

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