Acoustic characteristics of obstruents in Huehuetla Tepehua

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  • The Totonacan languages of Mexico are known to make extensive use of glottal stop and laryngealization, but little is known about the phonetic realizations of these contrasts. As part of a larger project investigating laryngealization in Totonacan, this paper presents a description of some acoustic properties of pulmonic and glottalic (or laryngealized) stops and affricates in Huehuetla Tepehua (HT), a Totonacan language spoken in Hidalgo, Mexico. The sound inventory of HT includes a laryngealization contrast in stops at three places of articulation: /p t k p’ t’ k’/, and in affricates at two places of articulation:/ts tʃ ts’ tʃ’/. Closure duration and voice onset time (VOT) were measured for both stops and affricates, as well as relative burst intensity and spectral moments of bursts. Duration, relative intensity, and spectral moments of frication were also measured in affricates. Results show that closure durations are slightly shorter in laryngealized segments than in pulmonic segments across both stops and affricates in all places of articulation, although there is still substantial overlap between them. VOT and closure durations vary across places of articulation in the crosslinguistically expected way, with labial segments /p p’/ having shortest VOT and longest closure, velar segments /k k’/ having longest VOT and shortest closure, and alveolar segments /t t’/ falling in between. However, there is a great deal of overlap between durations for all stops across place, manner, and airstream/laryngealization. Affricates are longer than any other segments analyzed here, with /ts ts’/ tending to have slightly longer frication than /tʃ, tʃ’/, but slightly shorter closures. Contrary to many descriptions of glottalic (i.e. ejective) sounds, the bursts of HT laryngealized stops are far weaker than pulmonic stops, sometimes even nonexistent, making a comparison of bursts between pulmonic and laryngealized stops unlikely to be fruitful, if not impossible to complete.

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    Conference Paper
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    Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International