Revistes Catalanes amb Accés Obert (RACO)

Regional variation in the devoicing of the alveolopalatal fricative in Argentine

Jennifer Lang-Riga


As is well known, Argentine Spanish demonstrates žeísmo, i.e., the voiced palatal phoneme //, standard for most Spanish dialects, is realized as a voiced alveopalatal fricative [] or its voiceless counterpart []. The variation of [] and [] has been shown to be conditioned by social factors such as sex, age, and social class (Wolf & Jimenez, 1977; Fontanella de Weinberg, 1978). The devoicing of [] has been described as a change in progress, led by younger, middle class, female speakers, and spreading to other groups in the populations studied (Wolf, 1984; Chang, 2008; Rohena-Madrazo, 2008, for Buenos Aires). The present study builds upon previous sociolinguistic analyses of žeísmo and takes a step towards a more comprehensive view of Argentine Spanish by investigating the allophonic variation in two lesser studied regional dialects of Argentina - Córdoba and Tucumán - as well as Buenos Aires. Spontaneous speech was collected from speakers in each of these three regions by use of a role-play elicitation exercise (La encuesta porteña, Gabriel et al, 2010). An acoustic analysis of the pronunciation of orthographic <y> and <ll> (in word-initial and intervocalic positions) measured duration, fundamental frequency, and intensity for these and surrounding segments of speech to describe voicing as a gradient production across regional and gender groups. Results show that females are devoicing more than males in Córdoba and Tucumán, with the most voiced productions coming from both genders of speakers in Córdoba. Males and females in Buenos Aires were not statistically different from one another, and these males devoiced significantly more (40% voicing) than those from Córdoba and Tucuman (both 95% voicing). This study presents the first recorded acoustic data for Tucumán, belonging to the northwest dialectal zone, and
data for Córdoba, contributing to the very few publications with respect to this
phenomenon (cf. Colantoni, 2005; Castellani, 1998). Additionally, the present study provides an acoustic analysis which considers the gradient nature of devoicing and quantifies the productivity of voicing among speakers from diverse populations.

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