Emphasis and pharyngeals in Palestinian Arabic : an experimental analysis of their acoustic, perceptual, and long-distance effects

Faircloth, Laura Rose
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Arabic has a phonemic contrast between plain coronal obstruents and emphatic coronal obstruents, which have a secondary [+ back] feature with a debated uvular or pharyngeal constriction. These consonants are known to affect F1 and F2 in adjacent low /a/, but the effects on other vowels, the role of these cues in perception, and the long-distance acoustic effects have not been studied. A production study of emphatic consonants (Experiment 1) in Palestinian Arabic compared F1 and F2 of the vowels /a: i: u:/ following plain /s/, emphatic /s [superscript ç]/, and pharyngeal /[h with stroke]/. In comparison to vowels adjacent to plain coronals, F1 was higher adjacent to pharyngeal /[h with stroke]/ and lower adjacent to emphatic /s [superscript ç]/ at the onset, but this effect decreased at the midpoint and offset. F2 was lower adjacent to emphatic /s [superscript ç]/, in comparison to adjacent to plain /s/, and this effect was consistent at the onset, midpoint, and offset. The effects of emphatic consonants were greater in low /a/ than in high /i u/. A perception experiment (Experiment 2) explored the role of these acoustic correlates in the identification of plain /s/ and emphatic /s [superscript ç]/ before low /a:/ and high front /i:/, where stimuli had a frication segment from /s/ or /s [superscript ç]/ and F1 and F2 values varied. Listeners used F2 lowering as a cue to emphatic consonants, but they were also able to rely on slight differences in F1 and the frication to improve their identification overall. A second production experiment (Experiment 3) examined the long-distance effects of emphatic and pharyngeal consonants. Speakers produced F2 lowering in all emphatic environments compared to a plain control, regardless of directionality or locality. Speakers only produced localized F1 raising with pharyngeal consonants in immediately adjacent vowels. These experiments suggest that emphasis is uvularization in Palestinian Arabic, which causes F1 and F2 lowering in adjacent and non-adjacent vowels in comparison to vowels in plain environments, and that listeners use these cues to identify emphatic consonants. Pharyngeal /[h with stroke]/ raised F1 briefly, suggesting that pharyngeals do not have the same phonological effects as emphatic consonants in this dialect.