An Acoustic Basis for Palatal Geminate Behavior in Spanish

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This paper investigates the phonetic bases of aspects of the phonological behavior of the palatal segments (/ɲ ʎ ʝ/) of Spanish. A moraic geminate structure is assumed for these segments to account for rather exceptional distributional and prosodic effects, particularly the narrowing of the stress window apparently triggered by palatal onsets in ultimae. I conduct a series of acoustic analyses on field data to identify acoustic features that might underpin this proposed geminate structure. I focus on prepalatal vowels and, in line with recent research, examine their duration, F2 profiles, and perceptual loudness. Results show that vowels before palatals are significantly longer than those before other types of consonants (occlusives and sonorants). This is explained in coarticulatory terms: anticipatory tongue-raising in the vowels – manifest in pronounced F2 excursions – is posited to exert a lengthening effect on the vowels as speakers negotiate target values with those of the rising F2, providing a perceptual basis for the posited moraic structure of the palatals in question.


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