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Contact effects on voice-onset time (VOT) in Patagonian Welsh


The effects of language contact extend well beyond the borrowing of lexical items, and can include morphosyntactic, phonetic, and phonological changes over time (Thomason & Kaufman 1998). One especially common structural outcome of long-term contact is phonetic transfer (Matras 2009:222). The Welsh spoken in Patagonia, which has been in close contact with Spanish for the past 150 years, offers one potential example of this phenomenon: Jones (1984) observes that younger speakers of Patagonian Welsh may be developing unaspirated voiceless stops /p t k/ as a result of Spanish contact.

This paper measures the voice-onset time (VOT) of the Welsh voiceless stops /p t k/ using contemporary conversational speech data from both Patagonia and Wales, for male and female speakers in three age groups (0-29, 30-59, and 60+), to examine the effects of Spanish contact on Patagonian Welsh. Results indicate that the tendencies seen in Jones (1984) have held true, and in fact have generalized to become a feature of Patagonian Welsh for speakers of all ages: Patagonian speakers produce the Welsh stops /p t k/ with significantly shorter VOT values than speakers from Wales.

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