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Regional relationships among the low vowels of U.S. English: Evidence from production and perception

  • Tyler Kendall (a1) and Valerie Fridland (a2)

Abstract

The unconditioned merger of the low back vowels and the variety of realizations found for the low front vowel have been noted as leading to greater distinctiveness across U.S. English regional dialects. The extent to which the movements of these vowels are related has repeatedly been of interest to dialectology as well as phonological theory. Here, examining production and perception data from speaker-listeners across three major regions of the United States, the relationships among these low vowels within and across regions are investigated. Participants provided speech samples and took part in a vowel identification task, judging vowels along a continuum from /æ/ to /ɑ/. Results of acoustic analysis and statistical analysis of the perception results indicate that a structural relationship between /æ/ and /ɑ/ is maintained across regions and that listeners’ own degree of low back vowel merger predicts their perception of the boundary between /æ/ and /ɑ/.

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