26 Feb 2002
David Rojas (Cognitive Science & Natural Language) & Iskra Iskrova (Indiana U)
Nasality Correlates and Variation in Haitian and Louisiana Creoles
In this pilot study we investigate possible acoustic correlates of nasality in two French-based Creoles (FbC): Haitian Creole (HC) and Louisiana Creole (LC). Both are assumed to originate from St. Kitts and therefore share some common Caribbean FbC features. In HC and in LC nasal vowels are phonemically contrastive, and the four-way opposition in (1) can be observed in both languages. (1) v[nas] : v : v[nas]N : vN Assuming that there are three different types of nasal or nasalized vowels in these languages---underlyingly nasal, nasalized by local regressive assimilation (in the environment of a nasal consonant), or nasalized by spreading from nucleus to nucleus---it would prove very valuable to determine whether these three phonologically distinct types display differences in their phonetic realizations. Previous investigations (Chen 1997, Feng and Castelli 1996, Hawkins and Stevens 1985) have been conducted on the quantification of acoustic correlates of nasality with regard to French, English, and other languages. It is commonly reported that a prominent characteristic of nasality is the amplitude of two resonant frequencies (P0 and P1) around 250-350Hz and 950-1050Hz, respectively. Through the analysis of tokens representative of each of the mentioned environments for the low vowel /a/, we attempt to determine the efficacy of applying the described means of analyzing these acoustic correlates to LC and HC vowels. In addition, we examine the effects of the phonetic environment and nasality on vowel duration as well. The findings of this rather broad, exploratory treatment include main effects on vowel duration that contrast between LC and HC. Also, the nasal correlates discussed seem to pattern differently for each language, though further exploration is clearly in order. The discoveries discussed here validate the usefulness of applying certain mentioned approaches to the examination of nasality in LC and HC, which could potentially lead to several interesting cross-linguistic typological studies on a number of regional French varieties and related French-based Creoles.