Rhotic assibilation is a common sociolinguistic variable observed in different Spanish speaking countries such as Argentina, Ecuador, and México. Previous studies reported that rhotic assibilation alternates with the flap and/or with the trill. In this study, we explore three aspects of rhotic assibilation in the Spanish of the state of Chihuahua, Mexico/El Paso, TX, United States: (1) Its diachronic development; (2) the linguistic and social factors that affect this variation and; (3) the possible effect of contact with English in this variable. Fifty-eight participants, including Spanish monolingual and Spanish-English bilingual subjects, performed one formal and two semi-informal speech production tasks. Acoustic and perceptual analysis of the tokens showed that the variation is not binary (standard vs. non-standard variant), but that it includes other rhotic variants with varying degrees of frication. Variation is restricted to phrase-final position and heavily favored by preceding front vowels (/e/ and /i/). These effects have a clear aerodynamic and articulatory motivation. Rhotic assibilation is not receding, as previously reported. It continues to be a prestigious variable prevalent amongst females, but also present in male speakers. The comparison between bilingual and monolingual speakers shows that contact with English does not significantly affect the occurrence of assibilation.
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