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Colloquium: Nicholas Henriksen on "Vowel harmony in Eastern Andalusian Spanish"

Friday, October 24, 2014
12:00 AM
3254 LSA Building

Investigating the nature of vowel harmony effects in Eastern Andalusian Spanish

Our colloquium this week is presented by Professor Nicholas Henriksen from UM's Romance Languages and Literatures Department. Nick is, of course, well-known to everyone in our Department as a regular participant in Phondi and other departmental activities. Nick will present on his ongoing research about vowel harmony in Eastern Andalusian Spanish. The title and abstract of his presentation are given below.

Investigating the nature of vowel harmony effects in Eastern Andalusian Spanish

Vowel harmony is a widespread pattern documented in many genetically unrelated languages, in which vowels in some prosodic or morphological domain agree in one or more phonological features. Recent research indicates that the behavior of harmonized vowels is best understood when their phonological conditioning is studied with their acoustic and articulatory characteristics (e.g., Benus & Gafos, 2007). In this presentation I show that vowel harmony in Eastern Analusian Spanish occurs in contexts in which /s/ deletion in /s/-final words triggers a vowel quality change in the word-final vowel as well as in the preceding vowel. Specifically, I use acoustic data to show that harmonized mid vowels constitute a category change from tense to lax vowels rather than a phonetic assimilation process with word-final vowels based on F1 or F2 values. A total of 12 speakers of Eastern Andalusian Spanish participated in two experiments in which they read aloud a series of carrier phrase sentences. In experiment 1 I show that vowel quality differences obtain for low and mid vowels in <–V> final words compared to <–Vs> final words, regardless of the morphological status of /s/. In experiment 2 I show that the features of non-final vowels do not agree at the phonetic level with those of final vowels, implying that vowel harmony in Eastern Andalusian Spanish is motivated on phonological grounds. All in all, these results speak to issues in the nature of vowel-to-vowel coarticulation, theories of sound change, and exemplar-models of lexical storage. Given the preliminary nature of this work, guidelines for future research are proposed.