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WPP, No. 108: Phonation Contrasts Across Languages

  • Author(s): Keating, Patricia
  • Esposito, Christina M.
  • Garellek, Marc
  • Khan, Sameer ud Dowla
  • Kuang, Jianjing
  • et al.
Abstract

This study compared the contrastive phonation types of four languages—Gujarati (modal vs. breathy), Hmong (modal vs. breathy vs. creaky), Mazatec (modal vs. breathy vs. creaky), and Yi (tense vs. lax)—on several acoustic measures, within and across languages. For Gujarati, Hmong, and Yi, two electroglottographic (EGG) measures were also compared; a Contact Quotient measure distinguished the within-language phonation types in all three languages. While several acoustic measures distinguished phonation types within each language, only H1*-H2* did so in all four languages. However, when each within-language phonation category was then compared across languages, each category was found to differ from language to language on multiple acoustic measures, e.g. breathy in Hmong is distinct from breathy in Gujarati. This unexpected result suggests that language/speaker differences in voice quality are larger than phonation category differences. This suggestion finds support in a Multi-Dimensional Scaling analysis of the acoustic measures. A three-dimensional space turns out to mostly distinguish the languages, less so the phonations. The phonation categories do not form clusters in this space across languages as might have been expected, but they do occupy separate regions along the third dimension of the space, a dimension correlated especially with H1*-H2*. Thus H1*-H2* is again seen to be the most important measure of phonation contrasts across languages.

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