Discriminating Pitch Accent Alignment in Spanish

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While much acoustic-phonetic evidence has accumulated which proves the existence of two <i>phonetically </i>distinct peak alignments (L+H* and L*+H) in Spanish declaratives, whether or not the two alignments are <i>phonologically </i>distinct remains a topic of debate. The goal of the present paper is to utilize perceptual data, as opposed production data, to establish whether listeners can distinguish between the two pitch accents. Participants took part in a perceptual task in which they were asked to discriminate between the peak alignments. The results indicate that participants had a bias to respond “same” to the majority of the experimental trials, which may explain why performance on “different” trials was poor. Sensitivity (A’) scores, however, indicate that overall, participants could discriminate some differences in the signal. The findings suggest that listeners could not successfully discriminate between the different pitch accent alignments. However, more evidence is needed to rule out the two pitch accent analysis.


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