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Department of Linguistics

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WPP, No. 108: The acoustic consequences of phonation and tone interactions in Jalapa Mazatec


San Felipe Jalapa de Díaz (Jalapa) Mazatec is unusual in possessing a three-way phonation contrast and three-way level tone contrast independent of phonation. This study investigates the acoustics of how phonation and tone interact in this language, and how such interactions are maintained across variables like speaker sex, vowel timecourse, and presence of aspiration in the onset. Using a large number of words from the recordings of Mazatec made by Paul Kirk and Peter Ladefoged in the 1980s and 1990s, the results of our acoustic and statistical analysis support the claim that spectral measures like H1-H2 and mid-range spectral measures like H1-A2 best distinguish each phonation type, though other measures like Cespstral Peak Prominence are important as well. This is true regardless of tone and speaker sex. The phonation contrasts are strongest in the first third of the vowel and then weaken towards the end. Although tones remain distinct from one another in terms of F0 throughout the vowel, for laryngealized phonation the tone contrast in F0 is partially lost in the initial third. This study shows that the complex orthogonal three-way phonation and tone contrasts do remain acoustically distinct according to the measures studied, despite partial neutralizations in any given measure.

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