Prosodic strengthening in American English domain-initial vowels

Heike Lehnert-LeHouillier, Joyce McDonough, Stephen McAleavey, University of Rochester

Previous studies investigating domain-initial prosodic strengthening have shown that consonants undergo cumulative strengthening at the beginning of prosodic domains. However, evidence for articulatory strengthening of domain-initial vowels is sparse [1], [2]. At least two possible hypotheses exist why vowels fail to show domain-initial strengthening: a) Domain-initial strengthening only targets syllable onsets, but not nuclei (structural explanation), and b) Domain-initial strengthening targets the initial segment in the domain, regardless of whether this segment is a consonant or a vowel (local explanation). The current study tries to distinguish between these two hypotheses by investigating the magnitude of the articulatory gestures for the English vowels [E] and [O] produced in consonant (CVC) and vowel-initial (VC) syllables in three different prosodic environments (IP, AP, and Wd) using ultrasound. Our results show that domain-initial strengthening is highly local and does affect vowels as well as consonants.