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Query Details

Query Subject:   Neutral vowels across languages
Author:   Madalena Cruz-Ferreira
Submitter Email:  click here to access email

Query:   Dear all,

In some languages, there is one same 'neutral' vowel that is used in a number of ways, like:
-it occurs in unstressed syllables only, and can also be the vowel with which other vowels alternate in stress shifts due eg to affixation
-it is an epenthetic vowel, eg to break consonant clusters
-it occurs in filled pauses.
In English and in Portuguese, there is one neutral vowel that fulfils all three criteria, though the quality of the vowel is different in each of these languages.

Would you be able to give me, or tell me where to find, information on:
1.whether other languages have one, or more than one, neutral vowel;
2.whether neutral vowels of other languages fulfil these 3 criteria (only 1, or 2? other criteria? which vowel is used for what?);
3.the phonetic quality of this vowel /these vowels.

**Please note that I'm not necessarily looking for ''schwa-like'' vowels. The neutral vowel of English is usually called ''schwa'', though the use of this term for other languages is ambiguous, as far as I understand. It can mean 'neutral' vowel, which is a functional label, or it can mean a 'lax unrounded mid central' quality, which is an articulatory label. Both meanings are true of the English neutral vowel, but not of the Portuguese one.
I also wonder whether I should be asking for sonorants, instead of vowels. Some varieties of Swedish use, I believe, [n] for filled pauses**

Many thanks for your help! I look forward to your replies and I will of course post back any returns.

LL Issue: 14.3204
Date posted: 20-Nov-2003


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