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Non-normative preaspirated voiceless fricatives in Scottish English: Phonetic and phonological characteristics

By Olga B. Gordeeva and James M Scobbie


Preaspiration is usually associated with stops rather than fricatives, both at phonological and phonetic levels of description. This study reports the occurrence of phonetic (nonnormative)preaspiration of voiceless fricatives in Scottish Standard English (SSE)spoken in the Central Belt of Scotland. We classify it as non-normative because it is\ud variably present in different speakers, but the distribution is nevertheless understandable on phonetic grounds. The paper analyses the phonetic distribution of preaspiration and its functions in SSE.\ud Preaspiration is shown to occur more frequently after open vowels and phrase-finally. Sociophonetic conditioning by speaker’s sex is not found to be relevant. Functional\ud analysis shows that preaspiration (reflected in the amount of noise in mid/high spectralfrequencies) is a systematic correlate of phonological fricative /voice/ contrast phrase finally. In this context, it appears to be even stronger predictor of /±voice/ than such traditionally-considered correlates as voicing offset and segmental duration. The results show that abstract non-neutralised /voice/ is phonetically multidimensional such that fricative preaspiration can maintain the contrast in the contexts where phonetic voicing is demoted. The extent and functioning of preaspiration in SSE suggests that it is a varietyspecific optional characteristic resulting from a learned dissociation of lingual and laryngeal stricture gestures in voiceless fricatives

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