Effects of Gender on the Production of Emphasis in Jordanian Arabic: A Sociophonetic Study
University of Kansas
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Emphasis, or pharyngealization, is a distinctive phonetic phenomenon and a phonemic feature of Semitic languages such as Arabic and Hebrew. The goal of this study is to investigate the effect of gender on the production of emphasis in Jordanian Arabic as manifested on the consonants themselves as well as on the adjacent vowels. To this end, 22 speakers of Jordanian Arabic, 12 males and 10 females, participated in a production experiment where they produced monosyllabic minimal CVC pairs contrasted on the basis of the presence of a word-initial plain or emphatic consonant. Several acoustic parameters were measured including Voice Onset Time (VOT), friction duration, the spectral mean of the friction noise, vowel duration and the formant frequencies (F1-F3) of the target vowels. The results of this study indicated that VOT is a reliable acoustic correlate of emphasis in Jordanian Arabic only for voiceless stops whose emphatic VOT was significantly shorter than their plain VOT. Also, emphatic fricatives were shorter than plain fricatives. Emphatic vowels were found to be longer than plain vowels. Overall, the results showed that emphatic vowels were characterized by a raised F1 at the onset and midpoint of the vowel, lowered F2 throughout the vowel, and raised F3 at the onset and offset of the vowel relative to the corresponding values of the plain vowels. Finally, results using Nearey's (1978) normalization algorithm indicated that emphasis was more acoustically evident in the speech of males than in the speech of females in terms of the F-pattern. The results are discussed from a sociolinguistic perspective in light of the previous literature and the notion of linguistic feminism.
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