Fourth European Conference on Speech Communication and Technology

Madrid, Spain
September 18-21, 1995

Experimental Evidence for a Comprehensive Theory of Vowel Reduction

Dick R. van Bergem

Institute of Phonetic Sciences, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

In this paper a comprehensive theory of vowel reduction is presented based on a large amount of experimental data gathered by Van Bergem (1995b). The schwa, playing a major role in the process of vowel reduction, is often thought to be a vowel that is produced with a 'neutral' vocal tract. This view is shown to be wrong. The schwa appears to be a vowel that is completely assimilated with its phonemic context; its vowel colour can vary widely. As a consequence, vowel reduction should not be interpreted as centralization, but as contextual assimilation. Two types of vowel reduction are discussed: acoustic reduction and lexical reduction. These can very well be interpreted as two intermediate stages in the process of the sound change 'full vowel -> schwa'.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Bergem, Dick R. van (1995): "Experimental evidence for a comprehensive theory of vowel reduction", In EUROSPEECH-1995, 1319-1322.