Laryngeal contrast in Seoul Korean
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This dissertation is a broad examination of larygneal contrasts in Korean obstruents, particularly in the Seoul dialect where a change in these contrasts is underway. Korean has a three way voiceless contrast among its stops, three categories which are called in this work plain, aspirated, and tense. These categories display several unusual properties. First, the tense stops are typologically unusual if not unique. Second, tense and aspirated stops both seem to trigger a high tone on following vowels, in certain contexts, while plain stops do not. Third, plain stops have a high degree of aspiration, at least for Seoul speakers, such that the contrast between plain and aspirated stops is not one of unaspirated and aspirated, but slightly aspirated and heavily aspirated.
Furthermore, in Seoul Korean, there is a change in progress concerning the plain and aspirated stops. Aspirated stops, as well as having longer VOT, also have longer closure durations than plain stops. In Seoul there is a trend towards closing the gap in both VOT and closure duration between these two manners, such that younger speakers have very little difference in these acoustic correlates between plain and aspirated stops. An apparent time study on these correlates is presented in this work. In addition, a perception study on the apparent time subjects is presented that shows that speakers are relying more heavily on the pitch/tone differences between plain and aspirated stops than the VOT differences.
In addition to reporting on phonetic studies, this dissertation brings together several threads of research on the Korean obstruents in a comphrehensive way: phonetic evidence, phonological representations, suprasegmental patterns, change in progress, spontaneous speech, cross-dialectal comparisons, and historical origins.