Ibrahim, Omnia; Yuen, Ivan; Andreeva, Bistra; Möbius, Bernd

The effect of predictability on German stop voicing is phonologically selective

Proc. Speech Prosody 2022, pp. 669-673, Lisbon, 2022.

Cross-linguistic evidence suggests that syllables in predictable contexts have shorter duration than in unpredictable contexts. However, it is not clear if predictability uniformly affects phonetic cues of a phonological feature in a segment. The current study explored the effect of syllable-based predictability on the durational correlates of the phonological stop voicing contrast in German, viz. voice onset time (VOT) and closure duration (CD), using data in Ibrahim et al. [1]. The target stop consonants /b, p, d, k/ occurred in stressed CV syllables in polysyllabic words embedded in a sentence, with either voiced or voiceless preceding contexts. The syllable occurred in either a low or a high predictable condition, which was based on a syllable-level trigram language model. We measured VOT and CD of the target consonants (voiced vs. voiceless). Our results showed an interaction effect of predictability and the voicing status of the target consonants on VOT, but a uniform effect on closure duration. This interaction effect on a primary cue like VOT indicates a selective effect of predictability on VOT, but not on CD. This suggests that the effect of predictability is sensitive to the phonological relevance of a language-specific phonetic cue.