Effect of emphasis spread on coronal stop articulation in Qatari Arabic

Vladimir Kulikov, Fatemeh Mohsenzadeh, Rawand Syam


Emphasis (contrastive uvularisation) in Arabic spreads from an emphatic consonant to neighboring segments (Davis1995). The effect of emphasis spread on a consonant is manifested as lowering of its spectral mean (Jongman et al.2011). Although stop consonants reveal a strong effect of emphasis, it is not known how emphasis spread affects other acoustic properties of stops, e.g. voice onset time (VOT). Previous studies(Kulikov2018)showed that VOT and emphasis are linked in speech production: plain /t/in Gulf Arabic is aspirated; emphatic /ṭ/has short-lag VOT. Phonological theory predicts that plain /t/should become more emphatic in emphatic context, which might reduce stopVOTas well.The current study investigates the effect of emphasisspread on VOT in word-initial coronal stops in Qatari Arabic. The stimuli, produced bysixteen native speakers of Qatari Arabic,contained target plain and emphatic stops /t/, /ṭ/followed by short or long low vowel, and plain coronal obstruents /t, s, ð/or their emphatic counterparts /ṭ, ṣ, ð/. The acoustic analysis included measurements of VOT and spectral mean of burst in the stop, and F1, F2, F3 frequencies at the vowel beginning, middle and end. The results showed that final emphatic obstruent triggered emphasis spread across the syllable. The effect of emphasis on the vowel was stronger next to the emphatic obstruent (p < .01). Spectral mean of burst in plain /t/was lower in the emphatic context (D = 276 Hz, p = .05). VOT, however, was not affected by emphasis spread. Plain /t/had long-lag VOT averaging 52 ms; emphatic /ṭ/had short-lag VOT averaging 17 ms. These values were not different in emphatic context (p = .743).The findings demonstrate that emphasis spread within a syllableaffects only spectral characteristics of a coronal stop. Emphaticness of plain /t/did not affect its VOT and did not result in complete transformation of the stop category.


VOT; emphasis; emphatic stop; Arabic; Qatari dialect

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.3765/plsa.v5i1.4652

Copyright (c) 2020 Vladimir Kulikov, Fatemeh Mohsenzadeh, Rawand Syam

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