Laryngeal Contrast in Qatari Arabic: Effect of Speaking Rate on Voice Onset Time
Beckman and colleagues claimed in 2011 that Swedish has an overspecified phonological contrast between prevoiced and voiceless aspirated stops. Yet, Swedish is the only language for which this pattern has been reported. The current study describes a similar phonological pattern in the vernacular Arabic dialect of Qatar. Acoustic measurements of main (voice onset time, VOT) and secondary (fundamental frequency, first formant) cues to voicing are based on production data of 8 native speakers of Qatari Arabic, who pronounced 1,380 voiced and voiceless word-initial stops in the slow and fast rate conditions. The results suggest that the VOT pattern found in voiced Qatari Arabic stops b, d, g is consistent with prevoicing in voice languages like Dutch, Russian, or Swedish. The pattern found in voiceless stops t, k is consistent with aspiration in aspirating languages like English, German, or Swedish. Similar to Swedish, both prevoicing and aspiration in Qatari Arabic stops change in response to speaking rate. VOT significantly increased by 19 ms in prevoiced stops and by 12 ms in voiceless stops in the slow speaking rate condition. The findings suggest that phonological overspecification in laryngeal contrasts may not be an uncommon pattern among languages.
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