Phonetic variability of stops and flaps in spontaneous and careful speech

Natasha Warner, Benjamin V. Tucker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


Variability is perhaps the most notable characteristic of speech, and it is particularly noticeable in spontaneous conversational speech. The current research examines how speakers realize the American English stops /p, k, b, g/ and flaps (from /t, d/), in casual conversation and in careful speech. Target consonants appear after stressed syllables (e.g., lobby) or between unstressed syllables (e.g., humanity), in one of six segmental/word-boundary environments. This work documents the degree and types of variability listeners encounter and must parse. Findings show greater reduction in connected and spontaneous speech, greater reduction in high frequency phrases (but not within high frequency words), and greater reduction between unstressed syllables than after a stress. Although highly reduced productions of stops and flaps occur often, with approximant-like tokens even in careful speech, reduction does not lead to a large amount of overlap between phonological categories. Approximant-like realizations of expected stops and flaps in some conditions constitute the majority of tokens. This shows that reduced speech is something that listeners encounter, and must perceive, in a large proportion of the speech they hear.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1606-1617
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics


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