The English past tense allomorph following a coronal stop (e.g., /bɑndəd/) includes a vocoid that has traditionally been transcribed as a schwa or as a barred i. Previous evidence has suggested that this entity does not involve a specific articulatory gesture of any kind. Rather, its presence may simply result from temporal coordination of the two temporally adjacent coronal gestures, while the interval between those two gestures remains voiced and is acoustically reminiscent of a schwa. The acoustic and articulatory characteristics of this vocoid are reexamined in this work using real-time MRI with synchronized audio which affords complete midsagittal views of the vocal tract. A novel statistical analysis is developed to address the issue of articulatory targetlessness based on previous models that predict articulatory action from segmental context. Results reinforce the idea that this vocoid is different, both acoustically and articulatorily, than lexical schwa, but its targetless nature is not supported. Data suggest that an articulatory target does exist, especially in the pharynx where it is revealed by the new data acquisition methodology. Moreover, substantial articulatory differences are observed between subjects, which highlights both the difficulty in characterizing this entity previously, and the need for further study with additional subjects.

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