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Morpho-Phonological Effects on the Phonetic Characteristics of Tense Consonants in Korean Compounds

This study examines the phonetic characteristics of Korean word-medial stops in two morphological contexts - compound and simple nouns - and probes the realization of compound tensification, a process whereby plain medial stops surface as tense consonants.


Using utterances extracted from a large-scale Korean conversational corpus to see what speakers actually do, phone duration, F0, and spectral tilt were measured. These were used to investigate the differences in the phonetic patterns of plain and tense stops, described to be categorically distinct regardless of morphological context.


However, the results show that morphological context does play a role. Specifically, the plain medial stops in compound nouns exhibit phonetic characteristics in the direction expected for tense stops, while the compound tense medial stops exhibit the characteristics in the direction expected for plain stops.


The results call into question the assumption that compound tensification results in categorically distinctive tense consonants.