Phonetic variability of the Greek rhotic sound. Table 1: General variability Table 2: Tap constriction variability. (a) (b) (c) VOWEL FRAGMENT. Mary Baltazani University of Ioannina, Greece <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
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Table 1: General variability Table 2: Tap constriction variability
(a) (b) (c)
University of Ioannina, Greece <email@example.com>
Results: Experiment 1 [ VrV ]
Inouye 1995, Ladefoged and Maddieson 1996).
have been found to affect their realization
across languages (cf Recasens 1991,
Recasens et al 1993).
characteristics of the Greek rhotic. General
studies on Greek consonants describe the
rhotic in passing as a tap (Arvaniti 1999,
Nicolaidis 2001). However, no details of its
phonetic characteristics are provided.
characteristics in different contexts. As a
result, the phonetic variability of this
segment is unknown.
acoustic study of the Greek [r].
1. Variability in rhotic quality
In intervocalic position, [r] in Greek is a tappredominantly. However, a lot of variability in production was found (Fig 1):
Figure 1. Three repetitions of the same word, by the same speaker show the variability in [r] production: (a) complete closure (b) partial closure (c) weak, glide-like constriction
Table 4: Makeup of rC taps
(a) (b) (c)
The percentages of different types of rhotic produced are shown in Table 1. Table 2 shows further variability in the amount of constriction for the tap.
Greek speakers are not aware of the presence of the epenthetic V fragment. Why is it there?
It has been suggested in the literature that the epenthetic V fragment serves the purpose of making the tap perceptible when it is found next to an obstruent. This of course is a matter for empirical verification through a perception experiment. However there are two considerations which lessen the likelihood for the perceptibility explanation: on the one hand, the existence of tokens in Greek lacking a V fragment which are perfectly perceptible; on the other hand, the existence of languages without such epenthetic vowels.
The obvious alternative (complementary?) explanation for the existence of these fragments is articulatory ease and the universal dispreference against clusters. One experimental finding gives some weight to this explanation: Cr clusters in this experiment were word initial (and homo-syllabic) and they always had a V fragment, while rC clusterswere word medial (and hetero-syllabic) and approximately 20% of these tokens lacked such a fragment. The effect of these prosodic parameters on the realization of [r] in clusters is left open.
Results: Experiment 2, Cr and rC clusters
In consonant clusters, just like in intervocalic position, Greek most frequentlyuses a tap. Approximants in C-clusters are fewer than in intervocalic position.
2.Characteristics of the tap in C-clusters:
similar to the vowel adjacent to the tap (Fig 2).
Table 3: General variability
In summary, the detailed phonetic examination of the Greek rhotic sound has revealed that it is a tap. The single contact of this tap is realized with various degrees of constriction along a contunuum—from complete closure to a glide-like approximation.
The phonetic implementation of this segment is influenced by pressures in the domains of time, perceptibility, and articulation. Cross-linguistically, such processes have led to reanalysis and lexicalization of the epenthetic vowel.
Examination of the acoustic details of segments like the Greek tap are important for the better understanding of processes that shape the phonological systems of languages.
Experiment 1: Intervocalic position (VrV)
Experiment 2: Consonant clusters Cr and rC
Figure 2. These spectrograms
illustrate the V
fragments (shown with an arrow) in (a)
[kru], (b) [kri], (c) [kra]
I would like to thank the University of Ioannina first-year linguistics students of 2004-2005 for their help.