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J Acoust Soc Am. 2018 Mar;143(3):1646. doi: 10.1121/1.5027833.

The role of gesture delay in coda /r/ weakening: An articulatory, auditory and acoustic study.

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CASL Research Centre, Speech and Hearing Sciences, Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, EH21 6UU, United Kingdom.
GULP Lab, English Language, 12, University Gardens, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, G12 8QQ, United Kingdom.


The cross-linguistic tendency of coda consonants to weaken, vocalize, or be deleted is shown to have a phonetic basis, resulting from gesture reduction, or variation in gesture timing. This study investigates the effects of the timing of the anterior tongue gesture for coda /r/ on acoustics and perceived strength of rhoticity, making use of two sociolects of Central Scotland (working- and middle-class) where coda /r/ is weakening and strengthening, respectively. Previous articulatory analysis revealed a strong tendency for these sociolects to use different coda /r/ tongue configurations-working- and middle-class speakers tend to use tip/front raised and bunched variants, respectively; however, this finding does not explain working-class /r/ weakening. A correlational analysis in the current study showed a robust relationship between anterior lingual gesture timing, F3, and percept of rhoticity. A linear mixed effects regression analysis showed that both speaker social class and linguistic factors (word structure and the checked/unchecked status of the prerhotic vowel) had significant effects on tongue gesture timing and formant values. This study provides further evidence that gesture delay can be a phonetic mechanism for coda rhotic weakening and apparent loss, but social class emerges as the dominant factor driving lingual gesture timing variation.


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