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

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

In Search of the Perceptual Correlates of Vowel Harmony

M. Grazia Busà (1), John J. Ohala (2)

(1) Università di Bologna, Italy; (2) University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA

This study was designed to investigate universal mechanisms governing patterns of VH. By discovering how listeners deal with the contextual variation of vowels in the context of other vowels, we look for evidence of the phonetic “seeds” of VH in languages which synchronically do not exhibit it. Listeners' criteria for front-back differentiation of V1 when V2 is a high front vowel are tested. The main hypothesis being tested is that a postconsonantal [i] will cause the vowel in the preceding syllable to be perceived as less fronted, due to listeners' perceptual correction of vowel backness in the environment of an adjacent front vowel. The results show that a postconsonantal front vowel affects the perception of a preceding vowel by causing this to be perceived as less fronted. The results, however, could be explained as contrast effects. This requires a deeper investigation of the perceptual mechanisms giving rise to VH.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Busà, M. Grazia / Ohala, John J. (1999): "In search of the perceptual correlates of vowel harmony", In ICPhS-14, 357-360.