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Phonetic and phonological vowel reduction in Central Catalan

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 December 2015

Marianna Nadeu*
Department of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, Penn


In Central Catalan, phonological vowel reduction causes the stressed seven-vowel system to reduce in number in unstressed position, where only the three reduced vowels [i ə u] can occur. Exceptionally, full vowels (typically expected in a stressed syllable only) can appear in unstressed syllables in certain contexts. This study explores the acoustic characteristics of phonologically unreduced vowels found exceptionally in unstressed position in Central Catalan and compares them to stressed full vowels and corresponding unstressed (phonologically reduced) vowels. Results show that, contrary to traditional descriptions, presumably phonologically unreduced vowels in verb + noun compounds sporadically undergo phonological vowel reduction. When they do not, they are shorter than stressed vowels and more centralized in the F1*F2 vowel space. In addition, stressed full vowels do not differ in accented vs. unaccented contexts in duration or vowel quality, indicating that vowels are hyperarticulated under lexical stress, but not when they receive intonational pitch accent. The findings contribute to a body of cross-linguistic research dealing with the influence of prosody at the segmental level.

Research Article
Copyright © International Phonetic Association 2015 

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