CLS Speaker Series - Matt Carlson and Alex McAllister (Penn State University) Phonological repair of initial /s/-consonant sequences in speech perception and production
Phonological Repair of Initial /s/-Consonant Sequences in Spanish in Speech Perception and Production
Spanish phonotactics prohibits word-initial /s/-consonant (#sC) clusters, repairing them as needed by prepending an initial /e/, e.g. in loanwords such as esnob ‘snob’. This process is easily described in any of the available phonological frameworks, but in an age where much of grammar is turning out to be gradient to some degree, it is not yet clear what contributes to such apparently stable and consistent patterns as this. One possible source of stability comes from speech perception: recent evidence suggests that [e] is so likely to precede an sC sequence, that Spanish speakers tend to hear it even when it is not there (and that they do not tend to hear other vowels in this context) (Cuetos, Hallé, Domínguez, & Segui, 2011; Hallé, Dominguez, Cuetos, & Segui, 2008; cf. Dupoux, Kakehi, Hirose, Pallier, & Mehler, 1999 on Japanese). We show using nonword discrimination and lexical decision data that this is indeed the case, but that under certain circumstances, listeners can respond as if other vowels are present. Our results support an abstract process whereby [e] is inserted before sC sequences in Spanish, but they also suggest that phonetic details in the signal can shape this process, details that may be related to reduction processes in speech production (e.g. Davidson, 2006; Munson, 2001; Van Son & Pols, 2003). We therefore pursue two hypotheses in a speech production task. First, we ask whether word-initial [e] preceding sC is in fact so predictable that speakers leave it out (such that Spanish speakers may produce and hear examples of "illicit" #sC clusters in natural Spanish speech), and that the reduction of articulatory gestures may nonetheless preserve sufficient acoustic detail to support identification of certain vowels in this position.