Nicholas Henriksen recently published an article on variation in the production of vowels in Eastern Andalusian Spanish, a variety spoken in southern Spain in the Journal of Phonetics. Whereas most varieties of Spanish use a five-vowel system, the Eastern Andalusian variety is uniquein that it uses a seven-vowel system. In Eastern Andalusian Spanish, speakers duplicate (or assimilate) the same vowel in different grammatical forms to distinguish meaning, such as [nene] ‘boy’, and [nεnε] ‘boys’. One central goal of the article is to disentangle the phonetic and phonological motivations of this type of assimilation. Altogether, this publication culminates three years of fieldwork research, involving three experiments (two production and one perception) in the city of Granada, Spain.

Patterns of vowel laxing and harmony in Iberian Spanish: Data from production and perception

Henriksen, Nicholas. (2017). Patterns of vowel laxing and harmony in Iberian Spanish: Data from production and perception. Journal of Phonetics, 63, 106–126.Journal


We investigate the production and perception outcomes of sound changes involving phonological vowel harmony, and how phonetic processes (i.e., /s/ lenition and vowel laxing) bear on these outcomes. Our data come from two varieties of Iberian Spanish: Eastern Andalusian Spanish (EAS), a variety that undergoes lenition of word-final /s/, and North-Central Peninsular Spanish (NCPS), a variety that typically retains /s/. In Experiment 1 we show that EAS (but not NCPS) speakers lax the low and mid vowels /a e o/ (i.e., approximating [æ ɛɔ], respectively) of /as es os/-final words. In Experiment 2 we show that EAS (but not NCPS) speakers harmonize the mid vowels /e o/ when followed by laxed /a e o/. We analyze this right-to-left spreading as a phonologically-induced change, and argue that it cannot be interpreted as anticipatory coarticulation with word-final lax vowels. During Experiment 3, EAS and NCPS listeners judged the grammatical status of stimuli from the minimal pair [nene] –[nεnε] (‘boy’ –‘boys’) in a forced-choice word identification task. While all listeners tended to associate [nene]-type stimuli as singular words, EAS listeners alone reliably associated [nεnε]-type stimuli as plural words. This suggests that EAS listeners have greater perceptual sensitivity to the /e/-/ε/ contrast than NCPS listeners. Altogether, our multifaceted approach offers insight on sound change from varied temporal perspectives: we explain what historical factors may have led to laxing and phonological harmony, and what synchronic motivations these processes may have.