A perceptual and experimental phonetic approach to dialect stereotypes : the tonada cordobesa of Argentina




Lang-Rigal, Jennifer R

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This study investigates the perception of vowel lengthening in the tonada cordobesa, a feature of the Spanish spoken in Córdoba, Argentina. Unlike other dialects of Argentine Spanish, lengthening occurs in the pre-tonic syllable (Fontanella de Weinberg 1971; Yorio 1973; Lang 2010) and is believed to be accompanied by a pitch peak (Fontanella de Weinberg 1971). The goals of this dissertation are to determine if duration alone (i.e., without intonational changes) is significant in identifying a speaker’s Cordoba provenance, and to discover what listener features affect perception. A matched-guise methodology presents speech tokens with natural and manipulated pre-tonic vowel durations to Argentine listeners in a dialect identification task. Results show a main effect of speaker region and token type (natural versus manipulated). Shorter durations made Córdoba speakers difficult to identify, reducing accuracy from 59% for natural tokens to 28% for manipulated tokens with shortened pre-tonic syllables. Buenos Aires speakers received the highest identification accuracy for natural tokens (80%) and Tucumán speakers the lowest (43%). Longer pre-tonic vowel durations are associated with a Córdoba identity, regardless of speaker origin and other linguistic cues. Control tokens produced by speakers from Buenos Aires and Tucumán confirmed this effect: these tokens, when manipulated to have a longer pre-tonic vowel, induced the perception of a Córdoba identity. Listener experience is also shown to improve accuracy of dialect identification: listeners of more geographically distant provinces, relative to the speaker’s province of origin, present significantly reduced identification rates. Acoustical analyses of the Cordoba samples confirm pre-tonic lengthening as well as an early peak rise within the stressed syllable, and valley alignment before the onset of this syllable. Pre-tonic, tonic and post-tonic syllable durations are lengthened, resulting in a segmentally unbalanced intonational phrase for which prominence is disproportionately concentrated in these final segments. The durational, intonational, and rhythmic properties make the Cordoba dialect unique among regional lects within Argentina and across the Spanish-speaking world. This research contributes experimental evidence for the prosodic features marking this dialect and supports its saliency and social significance within Argentina.



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