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

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


Brazilian Portuguese Rhotics and the Phonetics/Phonology Boundary

Adelaide H. P. Silva (1,2), Eleonora C. Albano (2)

(1) Departamento de Lingüística, Letras Clássicas e Vernáculas – UFPR, Brazil
(2) Laboratório de Fonética Acústica e Psicolingüística Experimental – IEL/UNICAMP, Brazil

This paper presents acoustic observations of Brazilian Portuguese rhotics in the speech of two male subjects, who exhibit an alveolar trill along with other variants of /r/ in word-initial position. Spectrographic analysis reveals that, rather than alternating from one sound category to another, such weakened variants of the alveolar trill may or may not be categorically distinct from it. Both kinds of variation seem to be prosodically conditioned, since trill-like segments usually occur adjacent to strong prosodic boundaries, while “weakened” segments such as taps and spirantized trills usually occur adjacent to weak prosodic boundaries. These findings suggest that dichotomies such as “ categorical = symbolic” and “gradient = dynamic” are conceptually misguided, inasmuch as dynamically related processes may or may not lead to acoustic discontinuity, thus giving rise to categorically distinct or continuously varying allophones.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Silva, Adelaide H. P. / Albano, Eleonora C. (1999): "Brazilian Portuguese rhotics and the phonetics/phonology boundary", In ICPhS-14, 2211-2214.