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An Acoustic Examination of Unstressed Vowel Reduction in Heritage Spanish
Rebecca E. Ronquest
157-171 (complete paper or proceedings contents)


The present study investigates the effects of lexical stress on Spanish vowels produced by heritage speakers of Spanish: bilinguals who grew up overhearing and speaking Spanish within the home and community from an early age, but were formally educated almost exclusively in English. Thirteen female heritage speakers of Spanish from the Chicago area completed a picture identification task aimed at gathering semi-spontaneous speech. Acoustic and statistical analyses of the tonic and atonic vowel productions revealed that heritage speakers produced atonic vowels that were significantly more centralized and shorter in duration than their tonic counterparts. These findings are consistent with descriptions of Mexican Spanish vowel reduction (Lope Blanch, 1972) and bilingual quality reduction (Menke & Face, 2010; Willis, 2005), but conflict with traditional descriptions of monolingual Spanish vowel systems (Navarro Tomás, 1918; Quilis & Esgueva, 1983). Overall, this investigation offers insight into the types of variation the Spanish vowel system can exhibit, and provides further evidence of a unique system of bilingual vowel pronunciation.

Published in

Selected Proceedings of the 15th Hispanic Linguistics Symposium
edited by Chad Howe, Sarah E. Blackwell, and Margaret Lubbers Quesada
Table of contents
Printed edition: $310.00