Blackfoot is generally regarded as lacking phonological contrasts based on laryngeal settings; it is typically analyzed as lacking aspiration, voiced obstruents, and the segment [h] (see Elfner 2006 or Frantz 2009). The simple fact that Blackfoot sonorants appear as voiced and obstruents as voiceless could be the result of redundancy rules (cf. Stanley 1967) or phonetic implementation rather than phonological contrast (Keyser & Stevens 2006; Stevens & Keyser 2010). However, at the end of an orthographic word, vowels in Blackfoot typically devoice such that “there can be no contrast between short and long vowels at the
end of a word” (Frantz 2009:5, see also Gick et al 2012). In this study, I examine whether Blackfoot final vowel devoicing —what I argue is better characterized as aspiration— is the result of phonological specification or phonetic implementation. I argue that the laryngeal feature [SPREAD GLOTTIS] is contrastive in
Blackfoot and that the phonetic implementation of this feature leads to phonological opacity and a near-merger of phonemically short and long vowels in a phonological phrase-final position such that they are perceptually identical (Frantz & Russell 1995).