Dialectal and sociophonetic aspects of preaspiration  

Pétur Helgason, Katrin Stölten & Olle Engstrand

In the Proceedings of the XVth ICPhS, Barcelona, August 3-9, 2003: 17-20.


A review of a number of recent studies of preaspiration in the Scandinavian dialects confirms that preaspiration is a strong, next to omnipresent feature of this linguistic area. In most dialects, however, preaspiration appears to be facultative whereas in others it is an obligatory phonetic correlate of fortis stops in certain contexts. Against this background, we present some preliminary results of a sociophonetic study of preaspiration in the Arjeplog dialect (Northern Sweden). Data suggested a significant effect of age and sex on preaspiration duration such that female Arjeplog speakers produced longer preaspiration intervals than did male speakers, and older speakers produced longer preaspirations than did younger speakers. It is concluded that these observations support Docherty's conclusion that sociophonetic consonantal variation can be very systematic and fine-grained. The observation that young women tended to preaspirate more than young men parallels Docherty's observation that female speakers of Tyneside English use preaspiration to a greater extent than male speakers. However, whereas preaspiration appears to be a phonetic innovation in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, its apparent decline in young Arjeplog speakers is probably a reflection of dialect-levelling going on in the Swedish speech community at large.

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