Dissertation on Iron Range English (cross-post)

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Nov 1 17:57:24 UTC 2005

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LINGUIST List: Vol-16-3150. Tue Nov 01 2005. ISSN: 1068 - 4875.

Subject: 16.3150, Diss: Phonology: Bauer: 'Prosodic Strengthening of C...'

Institution: Georgetown University
Program: Department of Linguistics
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2005

Author: Matthew J. Bauer

Dissertation Title: Prosodic Strengthening of Consonants in Iron Range English

Linguistic Field(s): Phonology

Dissertation Director(s):
Natalie Schilling-Estes
Shaligram Shukla
Elizabeth Zsiga

Dissertation Abstract:

This dissertation is a study of the role that prosody plays in altering the
acoustic and articulatory outcomes of segments in one moribund dialect of
American English spoken on the Iron Range of Northern Minnesota.   Linn
(1988) reports that Iron Range English (IRE) exhibits devoicing of
fricatives and stops ("bus" for "buzz," and "cap" for "cab"), and hardening
of nasals ("sink" for "sing").  The dissertation examines acoustic data
from four older speakers of IRE, testing for the presence of these and
other dialect features and studying whether such effects can be attributed
to category-neutralizing phonological alterations, or whether they might be
attributed to prosodic effects at the level of articulatory gestures, as
was suggested by Bauer (2004, 2005).

Results indicate that devoicing and hardening are most likely to occur at
higher prosodic boundaries (i.e. at the ends of Utterances and Intonational
Phrases as opposed to Phonological Phrases and Words).  These results
suggest the effect found in fricatives, stops, and nasals is due to
prosodic strengthening of select characteristics--not to category-changing
processes of phonology.  Further analysis shows that place of articulation
(POA) gestures of domain-final consonants are more sensitive to prosodic
strengthening than laryngeal and velic gestures:  POA gestures are
increasingly lengthened at successively higher prosodic boundaries, to the
point where voiced stops and fricatives are occasionally perceived as
"devoiced," and nasals as "hardened."  Crucially, effects of prosody on POA
gestures are found to be a general characteristic of IRE, observable in all
final segments?not just ones judged to be devoiced or hardened.

It is argued that prosodic strengthening targets characteristics that
define classes of features in IRE.  In particular, strengthening of
domain-final consonants in IRE enhances the place node and its dependant
features of an autosegmental featural organization, to the exclusion of
other features.  The results add to recent studies finding other
language-specific strengthening effects of prosody.  Results from IRE
support a model of prosodic strengthening whereby constraints imposed upon
atemporal representations of segments result in gradient alteration of
select gestural representations.

LINGUIST List: Vol-16-3150

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