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Reduced speech: All is variability

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Humans often communicate through reduced speech, where many sounds are altered or deleted. Even whole syllables or occasionally whole words can be deleted, as in the production [thjythɛ̃m] for do you have time shown in the visual abstract. Such reduction is more common in spontaneous, casual, conversational speech, but it occurs in connected speech in formal settings, and rarely even in careful word‐list reading. Such speech poses challenges for phonetic transcription, since it contains many sounds that do not seem to be any particular sound of the language and that are difficult to classify into categories. I argue this is because reduction operates largely outside the phonological system of the language. Reduced speech also poses questions about how listeners recognize the many possible forms of words, since speech seems to be made up entirely of variability. This article is categorized under: Linguistics > Linguistic Theory Linguistics > Language in Mind and Brain Psychology > Perception and Psychophysics
Waveform and spectrogram of hanging out like every day (in the context we have been hanging out like every day this week so far). The low‐F2 stretch marked here as [l] can also be perceived as [ʌ] or as the [ʊ] of the diphthong for out. Most of the vowel qualities are unclear, except that they are nasalized, or front, or non‐low, or other broad characteristics
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Waveform and spectrogram of my Friday night was so in the context I'm so jealous, my Friday night was so stupid. There is no perceptible or visible nasal consonant between the preceding /s/ of jealous and the vowel of my other than perhaps the first period or two of vowel onset. There is a lower amplitude portion with low amplitude F2 and F3 in the middle of the long vowel that constitutes Friday night, but listening to that portion confirms that it is a vowel, not a nasal consonant
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Waveforms and spectrograms of two tokens of reduced flap. (a) Getting with the expected flap realized as an approximant. Formants continue strongly throughout the consonant, but some reduction in their amplitude is present. There is no silent gap for even a brief closure. (b) Wedding with the expected flap nearly deleted, showing a change in F1 and F2 frequencies but very little weakening of the formant amplitudes. All sound files in figures available at https://nwarner.faculty.arizona.edu/content/6
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Psychology > Perception and Psychophysics
Linguistics > Language in Mind and Brain
Linguistics > Linguistic Theory

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