The Vowel Space Paradox: A Sociophonetic Study on Dutch

Author: Sander van der Harst
LOT Number: 273
ISBN: 978-94-6093-056-0
Pages: 395
Year: 2011
€39.00
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The Vowel Space Paradox A Sociophonetic Study on Dutch In both phonetics
and sociolinguistics, it has been widely observed that
speech style is situation dependent. Both fields have studied this topic auto-
nomously. When the results of sociolinguistic studies and phonetic studies
on stylistic vowel variation are combined, a paradox (referred to as ‘the
Vowel Space Paradox) arises. On the one hand, phonetic studies have found
that more informal speech yields a smaller vowel space in comparison with
formal speech, i.e. vowels in the vowel space are reduced in more informal
speech, as compared to their realization in formal speech. On the other hand,
sociolinguistic studies have repeatedly shown that some vowels show more
sociolinguistically conditioned variation in less formal speech. Thus, indivi-
dual vowels can cover a larger area in this smaller vowel space, as compared
to these vowels in formal speech. At the same time, it has been shown that in
more informal speech contrasts between vowels remain largely intact, despite
the smaller overall vowel space and the larger individual vowel spaces. The
current dissertation explains and solves this paradox by investigating the
sociogeographic variation in read and spontaneous speech of speakers of
Standard Dutch.

In addition to explaining the paradox, this study gives experimentally based
recommendations on methodological issues as formant measurements,
optimal temporal representations and normalization of vowels. Therefore,
this dissertation is of interest to anyone who studies vowel variation. Finally,
it offers a description of sociogeographic variation in the pronunciation of
Standard Dutch vowels.

The Vowel Space Paradox A Sociophonetic Study on Dutch In both phonetics
and sociolinguistics, it has been widely observed that
speech style is situation dependent. Both fields have studied this topic auto-
nomously. When the results of sociolinguistic studies and phonetic studies
on stylistic vowel variation are combined, a paradox (referred to as ‘the
Vowel Space Paradox) arises. On the one hand, phonetic studies have found
that more informal speech yields a smaller vowel space in comparison with
formal speech, i.e. vowels in the vowel space are reduced in more informal
speech, as compared to their realization in formal speech. On the other hand,
sociolinguistic studies have repeatedly shown that some vowels show more
sociolinguistically conditioned variation in less formal speech. Thus, indivi-
dual vowels can cover a larger area in this smaller vowel space, as compared
to these vowels in formal speech. At the same time, it has been shown that in
more informal speech contrasts between vowels remain largely intact, despite
the smaller overall vowel space and the larger individual vowel spaces. The
current dissertation explains and solves this paradox by investigating the
sociogeographic variation in read and spontaneous speech of speakers of
Standard Dutch.

In addition to explaining the paradox, this study gives experimentally based
recommendations on methodological issues as formant measurements,
optimal temporal representations and normalization of vowels. Therefore,
this dissertation is of interest to anyone who studies vowel variation. Finally,
it offers a description of sociogeographic variation in the pronunciation of
Standard Dutch vowels.

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