14th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS-14)

San Francisco, CA, USA
August 1-7, 1999

Sound Change and Articulatory Release: Where and Why are High Vowels Devoiced in Parisian French?

Zsuzsanna Fagyal (1), Christine Moisset (2)

(1) French Department, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, IL, USA
(2) Linguistics Department, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA

It has been claimed that in Parisian French high and mid front vowels in utterance-final open syllables are often devoiced and pronounced with a fricative-like noise. We investigated this phenomenon in spontaneous and read speech samples recorded from three generations of Parisian French speakers. Acoustic measurements indicate that the majority of vowels in read speech samples are at least partially devoiced, and show noise between 2-4 kHz. Devoicing and closure occur only in vowels that are in Intonation Phrase final position, and carry a low IP boundary tone. Male speakers in conversation showed the least devoicing. In reading and in conversation, 61 to 87 year-old speakers devoiced the target vowels as often as younger speakers did. We interpret the devoicing and closure of the vowel as the effect of an increased articulatory release before pause.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Fagyal, Zsuzsanna / Moisset, Christine (1999): "Sound change and articulatory release: where and why are high vowels devoiced in Parisian French?", In ICPhS-14, 309-312.