Usage-based phonology (Bybee 2001, 2006, 2010) proposes that high-frequency words can form part of the access route for the retrieval of related low-frequency words during production. This process can lead to the regularization of these low-frequency words. In order to test this argument, the duration, the percentage of voicelessness, and the centroid of 462 tokens of both word-medial and word-final /s/ in Dominican Spanish are measured. The vast majority (87%) of the word-final tokens are in syllable-final position while all word-medial tokens are in syllable-initial position. The tokens came from the speech of 24 speakers, 12 men and 12 women, between the ages of 18 and 61, who represent all levels of educational training and socioeconomic class. The acoustic measurements were performed using the phonetics software Praat (Boersma and Weenink 2010). The results of a series of linear regressions fitted with the statistics software R (R Development Core Team 2010) show that while the relative frequency of inflectionally and derivationally related words does not significantly condition word-final /s/, the duration and the percentage of voicelessness of word-medial /s/ are significantly conditioned by relative frequency. These results lend support, albeit limited, to the assertion of usage-based phonology that high- or higher-frequency words can be part of the access route for the retrieval of related low- or lower-frequency words during production.
Selected Proceedings of the 5th Conference on Laboratory Approaches to Romance Phonology
edited by Scott M. Alvord
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