Chapter published in:Hispanic Linguistics: Current issues and new directions
Edited by Alfonso Morales-Front, Michael J. Ferreira, Ronald P. Leow and Cristina Sanz
[Issues in Hispanic and Lusophone Linguistics 26] 2020
► pp. 208–228
Demystifying Salvadoran [sθ]
Evidence for /s/ lenition
In the Central American countries of El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, /s/ not only weakens to [h] and [Ø] but is variably produced as a voiceless approximant that is perceptually similar to interdental [θ]. While this sound, which I refer to as [sθ], has become a defining characteristic of these dialects, little is known about its acoustic nature or what drives its use linguistically. This paper aims to forge a more complete understanding of this sound in Central America via an exploration of these components in the Spanish of El Salvador. Acoustic and sociophonetic analyses of [sθ] in the speech of 72 Salvadorans reveal that this sound can be situated on an articulatory continuum between [s] and [h] and may be the result of gestural undershoot within a framework of gradient consonant lenition.
Keywords: El Salvador, /s/ weakening, lenition, sociophonetics,
Published online: 13 May 2020
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