Spanish vowel duration: Effect of lexical stress and consonantal context
Introduction: Like most acoustic studies on other languages, many studies on Spanish vowels have also failed to consider contextual variations. While some studies on Spanish have evaluated the effect of lexical stress on the phonetic properties of vowels (i.e. duration, F1, F2, F0) they have not taken into account their interaction with consonantal context.
Objective: To evaluate the effect of lexical stress and consonantal context on the duration of Argentine Spanish vowels /a e o/ produced by men and women.
Methodology: Twenty native speakers of Argentine Spanish (10 men and 10 women) read 54 real words, ending in stressed and unstressed vowels /a e o/ and preceded by the voiceless stop consonants /p t k/. The beginning and end of vowels were manually located by observing the waveform and spectrogram of each segment in Praat 6.1.14 software (Boersma & Weenink, 2020). The duration of each vowel was computed as the time (in milliseconds) between the beginning and the end of the vowel. A mixed ANOVA was performed to analyze differences in
Spanish vowel duration values.
Results: Significant differences in vowel duration were observed as a function of participants gender; vowels produced by female speakers were longer than those produced by male speakers (p=.031). In addition, stressed vowels were significantly longer than unstressed vowels (p<.001). A significant interaction was observed between the factors vowel, lexical stress and consonantal context (p<.001). Post-hoc analyses showed that the duration of unstressed vowels /a e o/ was not affected by the previous consonant while consonants affected the duration of stressed vowels. The duration of /a/ and /o/ was significantly longer when the vowels were preceded by the consonants /k/ and /p/ compared to the duration of these vowels in the context of /t/ (in both cases p<.001). In the case of /e/, this stressed vowel evidenced a longer duration in the context of /p/ compared to the other contexts (in both cases p<.001).
Discussion: In line with the findings in Chládková et al. (2011) for Madrid and Lima Spanish, vowels produced by females were longer than those produced by males. Regardless of gender, stressed vowels had a longer duration than unstressed vowels, as shown by other studies on Spanish (Romanelli et al., 2018). In addition, consonants affected the duration of vowels, as evidenced by previous studies.
Conclusion: consonantal context affects the duration of stressed vowels, making it necessary to consider this factor when analyzing the properties of Spanish vowels.