Consonant gemination in Italian: the nasal and liquid case

04/19/2020
by   Maria-Gabriella Di Benedetto, et al.
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All Italian consonants affected by gemination, that is affricates, fricatives, liquids, nasals and stops were analysed within a project named GEMMA that lasted over a span of about 25 years. Results of the analysis on stops, as published in a previous paper, had shown that the main acoustic cue to gemination in Italian is closure duration, while frequency and energy domain parameters were not significantly affected by gemination. This paper - the first of a set of two covering all remaining consonants - addresses nasals and liquids; its companion paper addresses affricates and fricatives. Results on nasals and liquids confirm the findings on stops, and reinforce the hypothesis that the primary acoustic cue to gemination in Italian is durational in nature, and corresponds to a lengthened consonant duration. Results also show an inverse correlation between consonant and pre-consonant vowel durations. This correlation is, however, also present when considering singleton vs. geminate word sets separately, indicating a sort of duration compensation between these phonemes to eventually preserve rhythmical structures; this inverse correlation is reinforced when considering singleton and geminate sets combined. Classification tests of single vs. geminate consonants show that, for both nasals and liquids, best classification scores are obtained using consonant duration, that is a durational parameter. Although slightly less performing, the ratio between consonant and pre-consonant vowel durations is also a potential good candidate for automatic classification of nasals and liquids geminate vs singleton consonants in Italian.

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