A variationist account of trill /r/ usage in the Spanish of Málaga

Sara Zahler, Danielle Daidone


This study analyzed trill variation in the Spanish of Málaga, Spain, and the factors that conditioned this variation. Data from twelve sociolinguistic interviews with men and women of different ages were analyzed acoustically with Praat and classified as the canonical trill or a different variant. Each token was then coded according to the following linguistic and extralinguistic factors: following vowel backness, position of /r/in the word, grammatical category, number of syllables, syllable stress, corpus frequency, number of phonological neighbors, speaker age, and speaker sex. Results revealed that stressed syllables and the middle and older age groups favored the canonical trilled variant. Word-medial position and word-initial position after a consonant also favored the trill, while word-initial after a vowel or a pause disfavored the trill. Corpus frequency was negatively correlated with canonical /r/production, i.e. higher frequency disfavored trills, while number of phonological neighbors was positively correlated, i.e. words with more phonological neighbors favored the trill. These findings suggest that future research should define word position in more detail and also consider corpus frequency and phonological neighborhood as variables.


Spanish; trill; variation; frequency; sociolinguistics

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