Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2015

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

Linguistics

First Advisor

Rebecca A. Scarborough

Second Advisor

Esther L. Brown

Third Advisor

David S. Rood

Abstract

Production and perception studies were conducted to investigate coarticulatory vowel nasalization in VNC sequences in Saudi Arabic. Previous studies have shown that the degree and pattern of vowel nasalization is influenced by the context in which the nasal and the neighboring vowel occur. The current study aims at investigating the effect of the postnasal consonant in the vowel-nasal-consonant sequence (VNC) on the production and perception of vowel nasalization in Saudi Arabic. The production experiment provided acoustic analysis of the influence of the postnasal consonant manner on vowel nasality and the temporal interplay between the coarticulatory source (the nasal consonant) and the coarticulatory effect (vowel nasalization). In order to achieve this goal, vowel nasality, and temporal extent of the nasal consonants were measured in three different contexts: the pre-fricative context (VNC "fricative"), pre-stop context (VNC "stop"), and nasal context (VN). The analysis of acoustic and temporal results provided evidence for the cross-context variation in the degree of nasality on vowel and the duration of the nasal consonant, indicating a temporal interplay between the extent of coarticulatory source, nasal consonant, and that of its effect, vowel nasalization. The cross-context variation in the nasality degree on the vowel and the duration of nasal source was attributed to aerodynamic properties of the postnasal consonant, such as the presence of frication noise, which result in differences in the temporal alignment of the nasal gesture with the vowel gestures. The perception experiment was designed to confirm the findings of the production study. A forced-choice preference task tested listeners' preference for the large and small size of overlapping between the nasal and the vowel in VNC words in order to find whether listeners would be able to identify the following nasal based on the nasality on vowel. The results revealed a bias for the VNC words with increased vowel nasalization (i.e. large overlapping between N and V). This finding suggests that coarticulatory vowel nasalization can be beneficial for the listeners and facilitate the process of speech perception.

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