Perception of word stress in Castilian Spanish

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We provide evidence for the perception of the stress contrast in unaccented contexts in Spanish. Twenty participants were asked to identify oxytone words which varied orthogonally in two bi-dimensional paroxytone-oxytone continua: one of duration and spectral tilt, and the other of duration and overall intensity. Results indicate that duration and overall intensity were cues to stress, while spectral tilt was not. Moreover, stress detection depended on vowel type: the stress contrast was perceived more consistently in [a] than in [i]. Thus, in spite of lacking vowel reduction, stress in Spanish has its own phonetic material in the absence of pitch accents. However, we cannot speak of cues to stress in general since they depend on the characteristics of the vowel.


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