Differences in Final /z/ Realization in Southwest and Northern Virginia


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Duke University Press


jats:pTwo apparently contradictory observations have been made about consonantal voicing in Southern U.S. English: compared to other U.S. varieties, Southern speakers produce more voicing on “voiced” stops, but they also “devoice” word-final /z/ at higher rates. In this article, regional differences in final /z/ realization within Virginia are investigated. Thirty-six students from Southwest and Northern Virginia were recorded completing tasks designed to elicit /z/-final tokens. Tokens were acoustically analyzed for duration and voicing; they were also automatically categorized as being [z] or [s] using an HTK forced aligner. At the surface level, the two approaches yield incompatible results: the single acoustic measures suggest that the Southwest Virginians produce more [z]-like /z/ tokens than the Northern Virginians, and the aligner finds that the Southern-identifying participants produce the most [s]-like tokens. However, both analyses converge on the importance of following environment: the Southwest Virginians are relatively least voiced prepausally and more voiced in other environments. These combined findings confirm previous work showing that Southern “voiced” consonants generally have more voicing than other regional U.S. varieties but also suggest that the dialect may exhibit greater phrase-final fortition. There are also differences within Southwest Virginian speakers based on differences in their rurality or in their orientation to the South.</jats:p>