In a language I am studying I have just noticed a significant but subtle difference in the length of [f] segments in tonic versus atonic syllables (an ~50ms difference which is statistically significant). When mentioning the effect to a colleague, I was asked whether such an effect, where consonants differ in their lengths (closure or constriction time) depending on their position in the word, is cross-linguistically common. I said that surely it must be, but I realized that I could only think of two examples, in English [s] (Klatt 1974) and Ibibio nasals (Akinlabi & Urua 2002: 135, fn.11).

Can I have help with other examples?

  • I've only skimmed it, but there doesn't seem to be specific mention of nasals in Harris's Ibibio discussion?
    – Aerlinthe
    Mar 11, 2012 at 3:04
  • @Aerlinthe oops, wrong Ibibio citation, thanks for catching that. I've corrected the post. The original source for the data, Bruce Connell's dissertation, is difficult to find since it hasn't been digitized yet.
    – user483
    Mar 11, 2012 at 3:57
  • In English, before stressed short vowels, consonants tend to be lengthened.
    – RainDoctor
    Mar 16, 2012 at 17:17

1 Answer 1


Maria Giavazzi's 2010 dissertation, The phonetics of metrical prominence and its consequences for segmental phonology, discusses stress-dependent consonant length alternations as part of a broader investigation into the relation between prominence and segmental phonology. See pp. 43-46 for an overview.

The author mentions Carolina Gonzalez's 2003 USC dissertation, The effect of stress and foot structure on consonantal processes, which also should have some examples.

  • thanks, this looks very promising, especially since it is so recent.
    – user483
    Mar 11, 2012 at 4:15
  • I just had a chance to go through Giavazzi's dissertation and I'm finding it helpful. I'll accept this answer.
    – user483
    Mar 11, 2012 at 16:05

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