Spoken word boundary detection in ambiguous resyllabification contexts in Spanish

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In Spanish, word-final consonants are resyllabified with the initial vowel of a following word, e.g. "mis amigos" (‘my friends’) is traditionally syllabified as "". Following previous acoustic descriptions, this study examines consonant duration as a perceptual cue to disambiguate the original lexical affiliation of such segments. Twelve minimal pairs of sentences were recorded by a native speaker differing only in the lexical affiliation of the consonant —four pairs for /s/, /n/, and /l/, respectively. Consonant duration was manipulated by computer in five equidistant steps, and the resulting stimuli were assessed by sixty-five native participants in a lexical decision experiment. Shorter consonant duration was found to bias participants’ perception towards a word-final interpretation in the case of /s/ and /n/ but not for /l/. Drawing on a previous production study, we confirm that consonant duration plays a major role in the recognition of resyllabification contexts. Additionally, we argue that some segment-specific cues —possibly also affecting contextual segments— are originated by the gestural configuration of each consonant and might be responsible for the observed perceptual differences. Finally, evidence is provided for the simultaneous coda and onset status of resyllabified consonants, and accordingly they are proposed to be phonologically represented as ambisyllabic.
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