15th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences (ICPhS-15)

Barcelona, Spain
August 3-9, 2003

Acoustic Aspects of Vowel Harmony in French

Noël Nguyen (1), Zsuzsanna Fagyal (2)

(1) LPL-CNRS, France
(2) University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA

This paper explores acoustic and articulatory aspects of regressive vowel-to-vowel assimilation known as vowel harmony (VH) in French. Based on three speakers' renditions of 136 pairs of disyllabic word pairs containing a mid-vowel in the first, and a low or a non-low vowel in the second, syllables of each pair, we examined assimilatory effects of final vowels on the duration and spectral properties of non-final mid-vowels. Results show that /e/ and /o/ have longer duration, and occupy a more peripheral position in two speakers' vowel spaces when followed by a non-low rather than a low vowel. Phonological implications of these findings could be that vocalic contrasts referred to as tense-lax distinction in other languages and varieties of French would allow characterizing the assimilatory behavior of mid vowels of standard French in a uniform way.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Nguyen, Noël / Fagyal, Zsuzsanna (2003): "Acoustic aspects of vowel harmony in French", In ICPhS-15, 3029-3032.