Dispersion and variability in Catalan five and six peripheral vowel systems

Daniel Recasens, Aina Espinosa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


This study compares F1 and F2 for the vowels of the five and six peripheral vowel systems of four minor dialects of Catalan (Felanitxer, Gironí, Sitgetà, Rossellonès), with those of the seven peripheral vowel systems of the major dialects those minor dialects belong to (Majorcan, Eastern). Results indicate that most mid vowel pairs subjected to neutralization may be characterized as near-mergers. Merging appears to have proceeded through two stages: in the first place, one of the two mid vowel pairs undergoes neutralization yielding a relatively close mid vowel in the resulting six vowel system; then, the members of the second vowel pair approach each other until they cease to be contrastive, and the front and back mid vowels of the resulting five vowel system tend to occupy a fairly equidistant position with respect to the mid high and mid low cognates. Moreover, in six vowel systems with a single mid vowel pair, the contrasting members of this pair approach each other if belonging to the back series but not if belonging to the front series. These findings are in support of two hypotheses: vowel systems tend to be symmetrical; reparation of six vowel systems is most prone to occur if the system is unoptimal. Predictions of the adaptive dispersion theory were not supported by the data. Thus, smaller vowel systems turned out not to be less disperse than larger ones, and mid vowels were not clearly more variable in five or six vowel systems than in seven vowel systems. It appears that for these predictions to come into play, the systems being compared need to differ considerably in number of vowels. © 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)240-258
JournalSpeech Communication
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2009


  • Acoustic analysis
  • Catalan
  • Contextual variability
  • Mid vowel neutralization
  • Near-mergers
  • Vowel space


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