Intensity differences were used to measure the degree of lenition of the voiced approximants in various contexts in order to contrast them with their stop variants [b, d, g], and in order to investigate the contexts in which they are traditionally thought to appear. 3,011 instances were taken from telephone conversations of eight native Spanish speakers from seven countries. The influence of phonetic context (post-pausal, post-nasal, post-lateral, etc.), stress, word frequency, appearance in a suffix (e.g., -ado, -aba) was determined using multiple regression. In line with traditional analyses, the results show that the voiced approximants are most lenited intervocalically and least lenited after a pause. However, post-nasal and post-lateral instances fall between these extremes. In addition, /β/, , and /γ/ are also more stop-like when following [s] or [h].
Traditional analyses do not factor in the influence of stress, word frequency, word boundaries, or appearance in a suffix, yet these emerge as significant predictors. Although the distribution of the variants of these three approximants is generally thought to be due to a unitary rule, significant differences between the three suggest otherwise. When followed by a stressed syllable, /β/ and exhibit more constriction when compared to /γ/, while all three phones are less lenited when they fall between two stressed syllables. /β/ and are also more constricted when they appear intervocalically in word-initial position when compared to word-internal intervocalic tokens, while the same is not true for /γ/. Contra traditional descriptions, is no less lenited than /β/ or /γ/ following a lateral. Instances of are also more lenited when they appear in high frequency words and less lenited in low frequency words. On the other hand, frequency is not a factor for /β/ and /γ/.
©Walter de Gruyter