Gouskova and Hall 2009

Gouskova, Maria and Nancy Hall. 2009. Acoustics of Unstressable Vowels in Lebanese Arabic. In Steve Parker (ed.), Phonological Argumentation. Essays on Evidence and Motivation. London: Equinox. pp. 203-225.

We show that epenthetic and lexical vowels in Lebanese Arabic, which are often transcribed as identical, are acoustically distinct: epenthetic vowels are either shorter or backer or both. We argue that this incomplete neutralization is the result of phonetics optionally accessing an intermediate level of phonological derivation. This is formalized in Optimality Theory with Candidate Chains (OT-CC): epenthesis requires a multi-step candidate chain, and phonetics can access any step of the chain. Furthermore, we suggest that the acoustic distinction helps learners construct the correct candidate chains for words with epenthetic vs. lexical vowels. [Note: the paper was originally distributed in 2007.]