Emphasis is a distinctive feature of Semitic languages such as Arabic and Hebrew. The term 'emphasis' refers to consonants produced with a secondary constriction in the posterior vocal tract and a primary constriction typically in the dental/alveolar region. Most, if not all, dialects of Arabic are characterized by emphasis, and have minimal word pairs that differ only in the presence of a plain versus emphatic consonant. The present study focused on the four emphatic coronal obstruents and their plain (non-emphatic) counterparts in Jordanian Arabic. Preliminary results from an acoustic study of the acoustic correlates of emphasis are presented. A major acoustic correlate of emphasis is a lowering of F2 for the vowel in the same syllable as the emphatic consonant. This lowering averages approximately 500 Hz. In addition, emphasis spreads to the right and left of the target syllable if the word has no opaque vowels. The set of opaque vowels proved to limit emphasis spread to its minimum - the vowel in the same syllable as the emphatic consonant. A gender effect was observed, indicating that emphasis is more pronounced in female rather than male speakers of Jordanian Arabic. Finally, duration measurements for the target consonants or the vowels in different positions did not reveal any significant differences.
Proceedings of the 2003 Texas Linguistics Society Conference: Coarticulation in Speech Production and Perception
edited by Augustine Agwuele, Willis Warren, and Sang-Hoon Park
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