Gestural Lenition of Rhotics Captures Variation in Brazilian Portuguese

Phil Howson, Alexei Kochetov


The goal of this study is to examine the rhotics in Brazilian Portuguese (BP), /ɾ,ʁ/ and the ‘archetypal’ coda /R/, to determine if: (1) they can be characterized as a coordination of the tongue dorsum and tongue body or tip and (2) manipulation of the gestural settings accounts for rhotic allophony in BP. Six native speakers of BP participated in an ultrasound experiment and produced target phonemes in #CV, VCV and VC# environments with the vowels /i, e, a, o/. Tongue contours for the rhotics were compared using Smoothing Spline ANOVAs. /ɾ, ʁ/ were produced with a tongue body and dorsum gesture, while /ɾ/ also had an apical gesture. Archetypal /R/ was realized variably, as any of [ɾ, ɻ, ɹ, χ]. BP rhotics can be described as the coordination of a tongue dorsum and a tongue body or tip gesture. ‘Archetypal’ /R/ is posited to be /ɾ/. Allophony between /ɾ/ and [ɻ, ɹ, χ] is due to tongue tip lenition. Allophony between /ʁ/ and [h] is due to weakening of the tongue dorsum and body gestures. This analysis suggests synchronic and diachronic changes of rhotics result from lenition. It also captures the rarity of diachronic changes from uvulars to alveolars.


 DOI: 10.21437/Interspeech.2018-1404

Cite as: Howson, P., Kochetov, A. (2018) Gestural Lenition of Rhotics Captures Variation in Brazilian Portuguese. Proc. Interspeech 2018, 182-186, DOI: 10.21437/Interspeech.2018-1404.


@inproceedings{Howson2018,
  author={Phil Howson and Alexei Kochetov},
  title={Gestural Lenition of Rhotics Captures Variation in Brazilian Portuguese},
  year=2018,
  booktitle={Proc. Interspeech 2018},
  pages={182--186},
  doi={10.21437/Interspeech.2018-1404},
  url={http://dx.doi.org/10.21437/Interspeech.2018-1404}
}