Scientific article

Phonetic reduction versus phonological deletion of French schwa: Some methodological issues

Published inJournal of phonetics, vol. 39, no. 3, p. 279-288
Publication date2011

A categorical phonological process of deletion is traditionally assumed to account for the alternation of schwa with zero in French. This process is assumed to result in two discrete outputs: forms with schwa (i.e., schwa variants)and forms without schwa(i.e.,non-schwa variants).However,the two studies we present here suggest a more complex picture.In the first study,we investigate the phonetic variability of schwa in a large number of occurrences of schwa variants and find that schwa,like other segments in French, under goes phonetic reduction. As a consequence, some tokens without schwa in connected speech may be the result of a process of gradual phonetic reduction rather than the result of a categorical process of alternation.In the second study,we examine the perception of schwa word tokens extracted from connected speech. We show that deciding whether a token was produced with or without the schwa is not always possible. Furthermore,listeners rely on other types of cues than acoustic ones in order to make their judgements (i.e.,speech rate, word length and segmental context). These findings have important theoretical and methodological implications that must be taken into account in the empirical study of French schwa alternation.

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Citation (ISO format)
BUERKI FOSCHINI, Audrey Damaris et al. Phonetic reduction versus phonological deletion of French schwa: Some methodological issues. In: Journal of phonetics, 2011, vol. 39, n° 3, p. 279–288. doi: 10.1016/j.wocn.2010.07.003
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Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal0095-4470

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