14th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS-14)

San Francisco, CA, USA
August 1-7, 1999


On the Phonetic Bases of Vowel-Consonant Coordination in Italian: A Study of Stress and "Compensatory Shortening"

Mario Vayra (1), Cinzia Avesani (2), Carol A. Fowler (3)

(1) Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa, Italy
(2) Istituto di Fonetica e Dialettologia - CNR, Padova, Italy
(3) Haskins Laboratories, New Haven, CT and Yale University, USA

This study focuses on the temporal organization of consonants and vowels in Italian, ostensibly a syllable-timed language. It aims to reveal the articulatory origins of a class of acoustic shortening phenomena known as "compensatory." We compared durations and first formant trajectories of /a/ in two compensatory contexts: 1) stressed /a/ in open vs. closed syllables; 2) stressed /a/ followed by one or two unstressed syllables. In addition, we measured /a/ in a prosodically different shortening context: stressed vs. unstressed position. We found that in Italian (as in English) shortening of a vowel before a tautosyllabic consonant is due to truncation by the closing gesture for the consonant. However, shortening due to destressing involves global reduction of the opening gesture for the vowel, evident from the beginning of the gesture. The similarity between these findings and those on English suggests a fundamental similarity in this aspect of their timing profiles.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Vayra, Mario / Avesani, Cinzia / Fowler, Carol A. (1999): "On the phonetic bases of vowel-consonant coordination in Italian: a study of stress and "compensatory shortening"", In ICPhS-14, 495-498.