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On the Foot-based Analysis of Aspiration in American English

By Stuart Davis


There are a variety of views on the environment for the aspiration of voiceless stops in American English. These include the view that the environment is syllable-initial (Kahn 1976 Selkirk 1982) or that it is foot-initial (Nespor & Vogel 1986, Iverson & Salmons 1995, Jensen 2000). There are also perceptually-based views of English aspiration, not grounded in the possible role of prosodic constituents. This includes Flemming (1995) who suggests a view of English aspiration in terms of enhancement of contrast: since English word-initial voiced stops are not fully voiced, it then makes sense that the voiceless stops in that position should be aspirated to enhance the contrast between voiced and voiceless stops. A related view is the string-based phonotactic/licensing by cue approach to laryngeal features developed by Steriade (1997) and Blevins (2003) that relates aspiration to the position in a string (preference for post-aspiration is in an environment right before a sonorant element) rather than to prosodic position. In this paper, I will first defend the foot-based approach to English aspiration and then discuss certain potential problems for such an analysis arguing that these problems do not really challenge the foot-based view. I will contend that aspiration is important for the processing of English words: aspiration not only demarcates feet, but plays a crucial role in the processing of lexical words. In defending the foot-based vie

Year: 2013
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