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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Department of Linguistics

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WPP, No.110: Glottal stops before word-initial vowels in American English: distribution and acoustic characteristics


Despite abundant research on the distribution of glottal stops and glottalization in English and other languages, it is still unclear which factors matter most in predicting where glottal stops occur. In this study, logistic mixed-effects regression modeling is used to predict the occurrence of word-initial full glottal stops vs. no voicing irregularity. The results indicate that prominence and phrasing are overwhelmingly the most important factors in predicting full glottal stop occurrence. Additionally, prominent word-initial vowels that are not preceded by full glottal stop show acoustic correlates of glottal constriction, whereas non-prominent phrase-initial vowels do not. Rather, phrase-initial voicing (even for sonorants) is less regular, but in a manner inconsistent with glottal constriction. Therefore, not all cases of voicing irregularity on wordinitial vowels should be attributed to the presence of a glottal stop gesture.

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