Bilabial fricatives in Mexican Spanish: A sociophonetic analysis
Voiceless bilabial fricative productions ([ɸ]) have been widely reported for several Spanish dialects especially in America (Lenz 1940; Predmore 1945; Navarro Tomás 1943; Florez 1951; Boyd-Bowman 1960; Canfield 1981; among others). Most of these sources posit that the bilabial variant [ɸ] is more likely to be found in rural areas, that it is normally produced by speakers with a low educational level and that is generally followed by back (and rounded) vowels. Nevertheless, there is a need to formalize such observations and check to what extent these external and internal factors or others may be impacting the choice of this fricative over the more common [f]. In order to do so, eighteen speakers of Spanish from Guanajuato (Mexico), an area that has been reported to present both variants (Boyd-Bowman 1960), were recorded producing words with ‘f’. The analysis of 126 productions yielded the following results: a) speakers with a lower educational level (primary or secondary education) show more instances of the bilabial fricative [ɸ] than those that have attained higher degrees (university); b) older speakers and males tend to produce the vernacular variant [ɸ] more than younger speakers and females; and c) back round vowels (/o u/) are more likely to trigger the use of the bilabial fricative due to their articulatory similarities.
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