LINGUIST List 13.2126

Mon Aug 19 2002

Disc: Tense and Lax i

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  1. paola escudero, Re: 13.2076, Disc: Tense and lax i

Message 1: Re: 13.2076, Disc: Tense and lax i

Date: Sun, 18 Aug 2002 14:20:29 -0400
From: paola escudero <>
Subject: Re: 13.2076, Disc: Tense and lax i


Regarding the vowel allophony discussion, I wanted to reply to two
issues. 1) With respect to dialectal differences, I would like to
suggest the study of vowels within dialects. The notion of universal
phonemes seems to be too abstract when it comes to the realizations of
the same "phonemes" in different varieties of English. I've carried
out several studies comparing the production and perception of the
/i/-/I/ contrast in Southern British English and Scottish
English. Please see my webpage for a number of papers reporting the
findings, also see for details re
the analysis of the production and perception studies. In my studies,
realizations of Scottish English /i/ can fall under Southern English
/I/. Precisely, for the reason mentioned by Karen. The basic idea is
that the dimensions that cue the phonological difference in both
varieties are used differently. In Scottish English (as well as in
American English and also in Canadian English, which I am studyin now)
the difference between /i/ and /I/ is mainly one of vowel quality,
whereas in Southern English both cues seem to be important but length
seems to be quite a reliable cue, you can check the exact cue use
ratios in my papers.
The other interesting thing is that those production differences are
attested in the same way in perception, i.e. differences in production
environments lead to differences in perception, as reported in my
papers as well. Furthermore, the same differences are attested in
Second-language learners of the two different varieties (i.e Scottish
vs Souther British English), also in my papers. More interestingly,
speakers of Southern English that have lived in Scotland seem to rely
more on spectral cues, there is an empirically attested dialectal
normalization. Right now I am conducting a study looking at vowels in
Canadian English and Canadian French. Interestingly enough, Canadian
French as spoken in Quebec has an allophonic alternation /i/-/I/ (it
has not been fully studied before). The fact is that the /I/ allophone
only occurs in closed syllable contexts and it's realization is far
higher than Canadian English /I/, it could be compared to Southern
English /I/. So in perception experiments, French Canadian are not
able to label the two segments correctly (their performance is close
to chance) whereas in an AXB task (with different tokens: different
speakers, different gender) they can, with no problems, differentiate
between the two segments. The Canadian English listeners label most
French /I/s as English /i/ (although there judgment ratings were
slightly poorer than for English /i/) and make very many mistakes in
the same AXB that the French people performed without any problem.
Another case, the contrast /A/-/E/ is produced differently in Canadian
English and in Canadian French (although, Canadian French does make
use of vowel length as well). 
Thus in perception the crosslinguistic differences in boundary
locations and peripherality of vowel realizations are attested. This
may pose a question to universality of boundary locations for
phonological categories. With respect to the context question, in all
of the production studies that I have carried out, not only vowel
quality but also length have shown to vary according to not only
consonantal context but also speaking rate, sentential context,
gender, token number, etc. Some of the differences between speaker or
between token are greater than the consonant context ones. That is, we
are able to normalize for all those differences and still have an
abstract category (which seems to be language and even dialect
independent). The question now is, is it the context in which it is
produced, or just the properties of a given token that makes it belong
to one category or to the other? I can give some answers to that
question from my own research if any one is interested in hearing
about that.

Paola Escudero

Utrecht Institute of Linguistics, Utrecht University and School of
Communication Sciences and Disorders, McGill University
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