This study explores the vocal fold contact patterns of one type of phonation contrast—the tense vs lax phonation contrasts of three Yi (Loloish) languages. These contrasts are interesting because neither phonation category is very different from modal voice, and because both phonations are largely independent of the languages' tonal contrasts. Electroglottographic (EGG) recordings were made in the field, and traditional EGG measures were derived. These showed many small but significant differences between the phonations, with tense phonation having greater contact quotients and briefer but slower changes in contact. Functional data analysis was then applied to entire EGG pulse shapes. The resulting first principal component was found to be mostly strongly related to the phonation contrasts, and correlated with almost all the traditional EGG measures. Unlike the traditional measures, however, this component also seems to capture differences in abruptness of contact. Furthermore, previously collected perceptual responses from native speakers of one of the languages correlated better with this component than with any other EGG measure or any acoustic measure. The differences between these tense and lax phonations are not large, but apparently they are consistent enough, and perceptually robust enough, to support this linguistic contrast.

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