Event



Speaker Series: Lisa Davidson - NYU

Dec 6, 2018 at - | Stiteler Hall, Room B21


Title: The limited distribution of syllabic nasals in American EnglishLisa Davidson, Department of Linguistics, NYU Abstract:Examples of syllabic nasals in English are common in phonological accounts (e.g., Hammond 1999, Wells 1995). However, the accounts typically rely on introspective judgments and examples of where syllabic nasals can occur and where [əN] must be produced can seem arbitrary: e.g., button (Southern British English (SBE): /button/ [bʌtn̩], AmEng: [bʌʔn̩], /seven/ [sɛvn̩], but [ən] for /sullen, sudden, blacken/). A few studies have used phonetic criteria to determine nasal syllabicity (Toft 2002, Roach et al 1992), but most work is based on SBE and/or examines few words. In this study, speech materials for eliciting potential syllabic nasal environments in American English are designed. Target words contain potential syllabic nasals ([n̩/ən]) in word final position, e.g. ripen, risen, rotten, sudden. Words were evenly divided by the manner of the consonant preceding the final [n̩/ən]: oral stops, glottal stops, fricatives, flaps, and laterals, as well as 10 words with potential syllabic [m̩] (e.g. /prism/). The stimuli were recorded by 25 native speakers of Northeastern AmEng. Results indicate that [n̩] is found primarily in words with preceding [ʔ], and to a lesser extent in words with preceding [ɾ]/[d]. For all other preceding manners, words are produced overwhelmingly with [ən]. Furthermore, inspection of individual speakers for both [ʔ] and [ɾ]/[d] shows that variation is across, not within, speakers. These findings indicate that the production of [n̩] is mainly limited to post-[ʔ] position in Northeastern AmEng, with some extension to [ɾ]/[d]. The lack of schwa primarily after [ʔ] may relate to findings that some positions favor glottally-reinforced productions of /t/ in AmEng, which may in turn account for why AmEng has the /ʔ/ allophone before nasals. A possible gestural account of how glottalization could give rise to syllabic nasals, and potential reasons for extension of syllabic nasals to preceding [ɾ]/[d] will be considered.

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