Two apparently contradictory observations have been made about consonantal voicing in Southern U.S. English: compared to other U.S. varieties, Southern speakers produce more voicing on “voiced” stops, but they also “devoice” word-final /z/ at higher rates. In this article, regional differences in final /z/ realization within Virginia are investigated. Thirty-six students from Southwest and Northern Virginia were recorded completing tasks designed to elicit /z/-final tokens. Tokens were acoustically analyzed for duration and voicing; they were also automatically categorized as being [z] or [s] using an HTK forced aligner. At the surface level, the two approaches yield incompatible results: the single acoustic measures suggest that the Southwest Virginians produce more [z]-like /z/ tokens than the Northern Virginians, and the aligner finds that the Southern-identifying participants produce the most [s]-like tokens. However, both analyses converge on the importance of following environment: the Southwest Virginians are relatively least voiced prepausally and more voiced in other environments. These combined findings confirm previous work showing that Southern “voiced” consonants generally have more voicing than other regional U.S. varieties but also suggest that the dialect may exhibit greater phrase-final fortition. There are also differences within Southwest Virginian speakers based on differences in their rurality or in their orientation to the South.
Differences in Final /z/ Realization in Southwest and Northern Virginia
rachel hargrave holds a B.A. in English from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and will complete their literature M.A. from Virginia Tech in spring 2018. They are interested in mythopoeic literature and adaptation studies as well as multimedia pedagogy, queerness in anime, and queer-centered pedagogy. Email: email@example.com.
amy southall graduated summa cum laude from Virginia Polytechnic Institute in 2017, receiving her B.A. in professional and technical writing with a certificate in literature and language, preeducation, and minors in agriculture and applied economics, peace studies and violence prevention, and language sciences. In 2020, Southall received her master’s degree in public administration with a certificate in local government management. She currently works in local government in public relations. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
abby walker is an associate professor in the Department of English at Virginia Polytechnic Institute. She got her M.A. in linguistics in 2007 from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, and her Ph.D. in linguistics in 2014 from Ohio State University. Her interests include speech perception, speaker perception, intraspeaker variation, and how these processes interact. Email: email@example.com.
Rachel Hargrave, Amy Southall, Abby Walker; Differences in Final /z/ Realization in Southwest and Northern Virginia. American Speech 1 August 2022; 97 (3): 311–344. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00031283-9308362
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