Research on dialect-specific neutralization shows that sometimes contrast reduction is not complete. Speakers are able to produce systematic small acoustic differences, of contrasts otherwise reported as neutralized (Port and O'Dell, 1985, Warner et al, 2004; among others). The present study investigates the production of the palatal nasal /ɲ/ and nasal plus glide /n+j/ in Buenos Aires Spanish (BAS), which have been reported as merging (Colantoni and Hualde, 2013; Kochetov and Colantoni, 2011; Malmberg, 1950; Tiscornia, 1930). For this purpose, three potential phonetic cues to the /ɲ/ and /n+j/ contrast in BAS were examined: duration of the nasal consonant, duration of the following vocalic portion, and difference in intensity as a correlate of degree of oral impedance. Overall, it was found that /ɲ/ is systematically slightly longer and more constricted than the nasal in /n+j/. Nevertheless, the results show considerable inter- and intra-speaker variability in the production of both segments. The analysis also revealed that gender of the speaker did not account for the differences found between /ɲ/ and /n+j/. The results in this study suggest that the contrast between /ɲ/ and /n+j/ could be incompletely neutralized. However, future research should investigate this possibility further by examining other phonetic cues, and investigating perception of these categories by native speakers of BAS.
Selected Proceedings of the 6th Conference on Laboratory Approaches to Romance Phonology
edited by Erik W. Willis, Pedro Martín Butragueño, and Esther Herrera Zendejas
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