Phonetic Reduction Effects in Malayalam

  • Elaina Wittmer


The current study examines how lenition processes are affected by speech rate in Malayalam. Two native Malayalam speakers were asked to read the North Wind and Sun passage at three different speech rates, and singleton, intervocalic consonants were analyzed to see how the rate of speech impacted the surface forms observed. Additionally, the study looked at instances where the use of the enunciative vowel was optional, and how the choice to use it could be described by a function of speech rate. Speech rate was shown not to impact when and how consonant lenition occurred, but speech rate did influence the presence of the enunciative vowel, which was present more frequently in slower speech. Consonant lenition may be weakly influenced by a syllable’s location in the word, depending on the place of articulation. The presence of the enunciative vowel, in addition to being influenced by speech rate, may also be tied to intonational boundaries, which shift as speech rate increases.