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Electroglottography (EGG) and acoustic analyses in the documentation of Cajonos Zapotec

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Title: Electroglottography (EGG) and acoustic analyses in the documentation of Cajonos Zapotec
Authors: Tejada, Laura
Issue Date: 14 Mar 2009
Description: This paper discusses the use of electroglottography (EGG) and acoustic analyses in the documentation of an endangered language of Oaxaca, Mexico. The author investigates non-modal phonation in San Miguel Cajonos Zapotec (SMCZ). Despite potential difficulties with the use of such technology for these purposes, the importance of accurate phonetic description in language documentation is emphasized. The electroglottograph is a non-invasive, painless method for studying the opening and closing movements of the vocal folds. It is used in this study to examine vowel phonation contrasts. A small, high frequency current is passed between two electrodes that are positioned on either side of a participant’s larynx (Adam's apple). When the vocal folds are open, more resistance to the current is encountered because air does not conduct electricity as well as human tissue. When the folds are closed, the current is transferred more easily. Changes in the resistance to the signal are recorded and given in a waveform output. Different phonation types have characteristic waveform shapes that identify them. Acoustic measurements such as the difference in amplitude between the first and second harmonics (H1-H2) are also used, since the relation of these amplitudes varies by phonation type. Work in progress suggests that SMCZ has four phonation types, including modal, creaky, breathy, and pressed. Modal voicing is characterized by periodic opening and closing of the vocal folds, while breathy voicing occurs when the vocal folds are not pressed tightly together and have little longitudinal tension (Gordon and Ladefoged, 2001). In contrast, creaky vowels have aperiodic vibration that results from the constriction of the vocal folds (ibid). The fourth phonation type described as ‘pressed’ is at present not well understood, although it appears to form a separate category from the other three. SMCZ has not been the subject of any previous phonetic analyses, and these findings differ from those reported by Nellis and Hollenbach (1980) for the closely related language San Pedro Cajonos Zapotec (SPCZ). EGG and acoustic analyses provide a degree of accuracy not available in traditional elicitation and transcription practices. Potential problems with these methods include the need for a quiet recording environment, and the fact that women sometimes have vocal folds which are too small to obtain accurate EGG data. Nevertheless, these methods have provided a detailed record of the production of contrastive sounds in SMCZ, and have been useful in the development of orthography for native speakers. Selected References Gordon, Matthew and Peter Ladefoged. 2001. Phonation types: a cross-linguistic overview. Journal of Phonetics 29/4: 383:406. Nellis, Donald G. and Barbara E. Hollenbach. 1980. Fortis versus Lenis in Cajonos Zapotec Phonology. International Journal of American Linguistics 46: 92-105.
Rights: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Appears in Collections:1st International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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