Rational phonological lengthening in spoken Dutch
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Dutch allows optional schwa insertion between a liquid and obstruent in words like film/filəm ("film") and dorp/dorəp ("village"), lengthening the word by one syllable. This epenthesis is productive and widespread, and is understood to be a phonological rather than phonetic process. A corpus analysis shows that a speaker's choice between the variant forms is influenced by probability: words that are less frequent or less probable given their immediate or discourse context are more likely to be lengthened. This may reflect a rational communication strategy in which language is manipulated to efficiently transmit information. As these results unambiguously show that lengthening is probabilistically influenced, they are informative to the understanding of the production mechanisms underlying pronunciation variation.
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