This paper deals with schwa elements that sometimes occur between consonants in Tashlhiyt Berber and seeks to determine where they come from. Based on acoustic data on word-initial C1C2 clusters, we examine how laryngeal specifications, manner of articulation and ordering of the place of articulation of the consonants in the cluster may govern their distribution and their durational characteristics. Results show that their occurrence in the acoustics is only possible in specific consonantal contexts, and under certain conditions of gestural coordination. Specifically, two conditions should be met for these schwas to surface. First, at least one of the consonants in the sequence should be voiced, as they never occur in word initial voiceless clusters. Second, the vocal tract has to be sufficiently open during the transition from one consonant configuration to the other. They are therefore most frequent at the release of the first consonant of stop-stop clusters and in sequences with minimal overlap. In addition, schwas are found to have variable durations depending on speaker and cluster type, but the durations of clusters with or without them are essentially indistinguishable. Taken together, these results suggest that schwa elements in Tashlhiyt emerge as a consequence of factors linked to phonetic implementation.
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