ASA 127th Meeting M.I.T. 1994 June 6-10

1pSP42. Acoustic differences between ``bunched'' and ``retroflex'' variants of American English /r/.

Carol Espy-Wilson

Suzanne Boyce

Elec., Comput., and Systems Eng. Dept., Boston Univ., Boston, MA 02215

In American English, two articulatory variants of /r/ are commonly found: ``bunched'' /r/---in which the tongue dorsum is bunched in the region of the palate---and ``retroflex''---in which the tongue tip is curled such that the underside faces the alveopalate. Use of these variants appears to be idiosyncratic for different speakers. Past studies have failed to find any consistent acoustic difference between the variants [cf. Delattre and Freeman (1965)], but have been hampered by the fact that without articulatory confirmation, it is difficult to know which variant was uttered. In the study reported here, Electromagnetometer data from a single speaker producing /r/ in various phonetic and stress contexts was used to determine which instances were ``bunched'' and which ``retroflex,'' and a detailed acoustic study of these productions was carried out. Here, it appears to be the case that ``bunched'' /r/ occurs only when adjacent to /g/. Preliminary results suggest that for the ``bunched'' /r/, F4 is close in frequency, while F3 and F4 are further apart for the ``retroflex'' /r/. This difference may be explained by the presence of additional side paths around the tongue caused by the bunched configuration.