The Palatalisation of the Voiceless Velar Fricative in Santiago, Chile: A Variationist Analysis
Allophonic palatalisation of velar consonants in Chilean Spanish has been hastily attributed to the inevitable anticipatory assimilation that occurs between aback consonant and front vowel. In this study, the extent of palatalisation of the voiceless velar fricative /x/ was measured before /e/ and /i/, in male and female speakers, and in controlled and casual speech, to ascertain the relationship between palatalisation, the gender of the speaker and the speech style, from a variationist standpoint. Using reading and interview tasks, a total of 1586 /x/ tokens were taken from 14 participants from Santiago. Results show a significant drop in frequency (indicative of lesser palatalisation) in casual speech from males, but not in casual speech from female speakers. Concurrently, the following vowel also influenced the degree of palatalisation. It can be proposed that palatalisation is dictated to an extent by articulatory effort and caution, linked to differences in sociolinguistic behaviours of both genders. [h] has also been registered as a more infrequent allophone of /x/, serving as a replacement for [x] and [ç].
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