Articulatory cross-language study of initial consonant clusters in varying prosodic conditions
This project is part of the German Research Council Fondation (DFG) Priority Programme 1234: Phonological and phonetic competence: between grammar, signal procesing, and neural activity
Funding, application period
DFG, 2006 - 2012
Prosodic structure is not only marked by durational and intonational means but also by so- called articulatory strengthening. This project aims at a better understanding of the interplay between the segmental tier and higher levels in the prosodic hierarchy by analysing articulatory principles governing the internal organization of initial consonant clusters under varying prosodic conditions. Prosodic variation effectively has a dual role in this project: Firstly, it is interesting topic in its own right to better understand how speakers’ articulatory behaviour provides information on prosodic structure to the listener. Secondly, prosodic variation acts as a probe to reveal the internal structure of clusters: how stable are individual gestures, and how strong is the cohesion between different gestures? Clusters are particularly interesting for several reasons: (1) It is not known yet which part or property of a cluster will be enhanced in prosodically prominent positions such as under accent, stress, or boundary-initially, (2) Analysing clusters in different prosodic conditions will shed new light on the specifics of the term ‘articulatory strengthening’ which subsumes a variety of partly opposing phenomena. Especially taking the three languages German, French and English into account will provide more empirical knowledge for corroborating attempts at unifying theories such as Feature Enhancement, Sonority Expansion, π-Gesture and Hyperarticulation. (3) Traditional phonological approaches have failed to account for the high frequency of certain consonant sequences, such as initial sibilant + stop clusters. “Successful” clusters may be those that exhibit highly salient acoustic properties while still permitting considerable gestural overlap (i.e achieving efficient parallel transmission of information). By analysing the kinematics of several articulators (tongue, jaw, velum, lips, glottal abduction) and the gestural coordination within clusters we hope to find evidence for articulatory constraints in less preferred clusters, e.g. stop – nasal, or strategies for avoiding the masking of relevant cues such as less gestural overlap. The relevance of temporal adjustments for the perceptibility of consonant sequences will be evaluated in perception tests based on articulatory synthesis. In short, we aim for a better understanding of the cognitive representation of some of the most complex articulations in human speech, both from a linguistic and a motor control perspective, as well as potentially shedding light on processes underlying sound change.
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