Working paper Open Access

A cross-language comparison of vowel production and perception: language-specific and universal aspects

Bradlow, Ann R.

This paper presents a concurrent examination of the acoustic and perceptual characteristics of the vowels of two languages with very different vowel systems, namely English with a relatively large inventory of eleven stressed monophthongs and Spanish with a relatively small inventory of five stressed monophthongs. This investigation attempts to identify language-specific and universal aspects of both vowel production and perception by exploring the effect of inventory size on the acoustic and perceptual characteristics of similar vowel categories across different vowel systems.

Specifically, this study investigates the acoustic characteristics of the four common vowels across the two languages, namely Iii, le/, 101, and lui, as well as the perceptual characteristics of the /u/-/ol contrast in the two languages. By looking at the phonetics of vowels that occupy similar positions in the vowel spaces of the two languages the effects of the different vowel inventory structures are most noticeable, and thus provide an indication of the language-specific and universal aspects of vowel production and perception.

This paper is copyrighted, and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) - see https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/
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