Acoustic variability within and across German, French, and American English vowels: Phonetic context effects

Winifred Strange, Andrea Weber, Erika S. Levy, Valeriy Shafiro, Miwako Hisagi, Kanae Nishi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


Cross-language perception studies report influences of speech style and consonantal context on perceived similarity and discrimination of non-native vowels by inexperienced and experienced listeners. Detailed acoustic comparisons of distributions of vowels produced by native speakers of North German (NG), Parisian French (PF) and New York English (AE) in citation (di)syllables and in sentences (surrounded by labial and alveolar stops) are reported here. Results of within- and cross-language discriminant analyses reveal striking dissimilarities across languages in the spectral/temporal variation of coarticulated vowels. As expected, vocalic duration was most important in differentiating NG vowels; it did not contribute to PF vowel classification. Spectrally, NG long vowels showed little coarticulatory change, but back/low short vowels were fronted/raised in alveolar context. PF vowels showed greater coarticulatory effects overall; back and front rounded vowels were fronted, low and mid-low vowels were raised in both sentence contexts. AE mid to high back vowels were extremely fronted in alveolar contexts, with little change in mid-low and low long vowels. Cross-language discriminant analyses revealed varying patterns of spectral (dis)similarity across speech styles and consonantal contexts that could, in part, account for AE listeners' perception of German and French front rounded vowels, and "similar" mid-high to mid-low vowels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1111-1129
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics


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