Disentangling stress from accent in Spanish

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According to Sluijter and colleagues (1996b, 1997), stress is independent from accent because it has its own phonetic cues: stressed vowels are longer and have flatter spectral tilts than their unstressed counterparts. However, Campbell and Beckman (1997) show that, for American English, these duration and spectral tilt patterns are a consequence of vowel reduction: when unreduced vowels with different levels of stress (primary and secondary stress) are compared, duration and spectral tilt do not correlate with the stress difference. This paper contributes to the above discussion by examining the stress contrast in deaccented syllables in Spanish. Since Spanish has no phonological vowel reduction, it constitutes a good test case for the above hypotheses. Moreover, this study attempts to disentangle the correlates of stress from those of accent, something which has thus far not been done in the traditional literature on Spanish stress. The results indicate that stress contrast in Spanish is maintained in deaccented contexts by differences in duration, spectral tilt, and to a lesser extent, vowel quality.


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