The effect of schwa duration on pre-schwa mid-vowel lowering in French
Keywords:French, Schwa, Laxing in Closed Syllables, Phonetic Grammar, Maximum Entropy Grammar
AbstractIn Southern French, mid vowels are lowered in open syllables before schwa and in closed syllables. I propose that mid-vowel lowering is a strategy to enhance the perceptibility of a following consonant lacking good release cues. Open syllables followed by schwa behave like closed syllables and not like open syllables followed by a full vowel because, as a short vowel, schwa does not provide long enough release transitions to adequately cue a preceding consonant. This study provides evidence that the likelihood of lowering pre-schwa mid vowels decreases as schwa duration increases, in accordance with the perceptual hypothesis. The effect of schwa duration on mid vowel quality is derived in a model of phonology allowing for speaker-specific details of phonetic realization to influence phonotactics.
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