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Contrôle des corrélats temporels et spectraux de la quantité vocalique:
de l'arabe syrien de l'Euphrate au français de Savoie.

Abstract : Vocalic quantity corresponds to two main correlates: in the temporal and in the spectral domains. In principle, only controlled correlates play a relevant role in linguistic communication. We studied the control for these correlates in two different linguistic systems: dialectal Arabic of Mayadin on Syrian Euphrates, and regional French of the Combe de Savoie. While temporal correlates are mainly manifested by the presence of two metrical categories, short vs. long vowels, spectral correlates are reflected by the centrality of short with respect to long vowels.
In order to determine the principal controlled correlate, we tested for dialectal Arabic the effect of two contexts, or fundamental natural perturbations. The first one, speech rate acceleration, reduces most directly the absolute vowel duration. The second one, interrogative focus, is able to affect notably their spectral structure (formants). We used therefore two processes that are divergent concerning their major effects: reduction vs. enhancement. Finally, we assigned to short vowels, by digital manipulation of duration, for a perceptive experiment, the duration of long ones, and vice-versa. We revisited the literature on perceptive thresholds concerning segmental duration and formant frequency in order to evaluate our measurements.
Our results concerning Syrian Arabic show that the temporal difference between shorts and longs is efficiently controlled. As for centralization, described as a simple vocalic reduction, it turned out to be a phonological process and not an articulatory process that depends on duration: centralization is not a by-product of brevity. Hence, it is not a matter of an articulatory gesture undershooting its target. Shorts are becoming full-fledged vocalic targets. This process is now completed for short [i], which remains basically [e], whatever the type of perturbation is, even under the enhancing influence of interrogative intonation focus. However, this dialectal Arabic vocalic system is not reduced to the triangle of short vowel qualities (sufficient dispersion theory), which might be contrasted with the long ones by means of duration. According to the universal principle of the maximum dispersion theory, this system maintains extreme vowels for long ones, with true [i] [a] [u] exemplars.
Regional French from Savoy has maintained, better than standard French, and as well as many Arabic dialects, short and long vowel contrasts, which are correlated to temporal and spectral distances. Our study, manipulating speech rate over three generations, demonstrated that speakers in their seventies do control temporal correlates for pairs in the /A/ and in the /O/ regions, the spectral correlates being controlled by F1 and F2 for the /O/ pair, and only by F2 for the /A/ pair (the contrast for the /E/ pair is not robust). So, like in Arabic, centralization of short vowels does not arise from a simple vocalic reduction, since spectral distances are also controlled. Results also show that for the generation in the age range of 20-25 years, only the spectral correlate remains controlled for the /O/ pair, all contrasts being lost for the /E/ pair and for the /A/ pair. Obviously, intergenerational changes in Savoy French are not as conservative of contrasts as for Arabic of Syrian Euphrates.
In conclusion, from a universal point of view, these vowel changes do not undermine the prediction of the maximum dispersion principle. To reinforce this statement we had to consider the special case of Aboriginal vowel systems of Northern Australia, which plead in favor of the sufficient dispersion theory, since they are classically presented as defective in high vowels, i.e. with no [i] and [u] exemplars. Enhancement of intonation does not induce short [e] to come back to [i] in Arabic speakers, not more than decelerating speech rate would be able to re-establish lost quantity contrasts in Savoy French. But intonational enhancement allows a recovering of [i] by Kayardild aboriginal women speakers. This finding leads us to believe that the reversibility of a change may be used in case of the violation (which does not occur in Arabic or French) of a universal principle such as the extremal vowel dispersion.
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Omran Allatif. Contrôle des corrélats temporels et spectraux de la quantité vocalique:
de l'arabe syrien de l'Euphrate au français de Savoie.. Linguistique. Université Stendhal - Grenoble III, 2008. Français. ⟨tel-00338010⟩

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