5th European Conference on Speech Communication and Technology

Rhodes, Greece
September 22-25, 1997

Does Deletion of French SCHWA Lead to Neutralization of Lexical Distinctions?

Cecile Fougeron (1,2), Donca Steriade (2)

(1) Inst. de Phonetique, Univ. Paris III, France
(2) UCLA, Dept. of Linguistics, USA

This study explores the hypothesis that relatively invariant properties characterizing lexical items include non contrastive phonetic details such as the amount of linguopalatal contact, or aspects of inter- gestural timing. We show that, in French, a sequence of consonants resulting from the loss of schwa maintains some of the fine articulatory characteristics of the lexical form containing schwa. Such characteristics distinguish this sequence of consonants from an underlying cluster. Thus, we show that "d'rôle" 'some role', with the apostrophe indicating schwa loss, remains articulatorily distinct from "drôle" 'funny'. A perception experiment shows that the two types of sequences (CC and C'C) are only marginally discriminable by French listeners. However, when the subjects identify correctly the two types of sequences, the distinct characteristics identified in production correlate with the listeners' judgments.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Fougeron, Cecile / Steriade, Donca (1997): "Does deletion of French SCHWA lead to neutralization of lexical distinctions?", In EUROSPEECH-1997, 943-946.