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zompist bboard :: View topic - What shape is he vowel space, really?
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What shape is he vowel space, really?
http://www.incatena.org/viewtopic.php?f=7&t=44410
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Author:  alice [ Fri Aug 26, 2016 1:23 pm ]
Post subject:  What shape is he vowel space, really?

OK, I know this won't revolutionise phonetics, but it's been at the back of my mind for a while, and now it's ready to come out.

Most of you will point to something like and reply "it's a quadrilateral; why do you need to ask?" However, there may well be grounds for treating it as triangular; see for one argument. (There's lots other interesting stuff on that blog, btw.) Note, too, that treats vowels as mixtures of [i], [a], and [u] qualities, which fits better into a triangle than a quadrilateral.

So: Has the IPA vowel diagram, in some sort of Sapir-Whorfian subterfuge, conditioned us to a suboptimal view of the physical and auditory reality? Could the IPA thus be seen as analogous to QWERTY, in an admittedly non-obvious way?

(I highly recommend praat, too; it can become addictive. I'm still not sure why I can't produce a fully back [u] though.)

Author:  zompist [ Fri Aug 26, 2016 2:22 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: What shape is he vowel space, really?

I would normally trust William Labov on these issues, and as it happens he agrees with you— the vowel space is triangular, not quadrilateral.

However, the page you linked is limited by, in effect, looking at just two speakers. Labov has examined hundreds. His Principles of Linguistic Change contains vowel charts for many of them; not all of them are as strikingly triangular as Wells and Jones. It seems more common for the bottom of the triangle to be blunt rather than sharp.

Author:  mèþru [ Fri Aug 26, 2016 3:25 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: What shape is he vowel space, really?

Isn't this essentially the same thread as one you posted earlier?

Author:  Grunnen [ Fri Aug 26, 2016 3:28 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: What shape is he vowel space, really?

Geoff Lindsay has made an interesting proposal for conseptualising the vowel space as fundementally a space of frequencies of the first and second formants of the acoustic speech signal. He's used that as the basis for a proposal for to change the IPA vowel chart, and he arrives at an essentially triangular layout as well. Personally I like to think his view on this subject has helped me understand vowels better. You can find his proposal on his blog: http://englishspeechservices.com/blog/the-vowel-space/

Author:  alice [ Sat Aug 27, 2016 2:06 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: What shape is he vowel space, really?


Author:  Tropylium [ Sat Aug 27, 2016 2:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: What shape is he vowel space, really?

Related empirical question: does anyone happen to know of languages other than Danish that contrast all four of /ɛ œ ʌ ɔ/?

For four high qualities you can look at e.g. literally anything Turkic for /i y ɯ u/ (also e.g. Scandinavian for /i y ʉ u/, or Toda for /i y ɨ u/). Finding four close-mid qualities is harder, but at least a few langs (e.g. Estonian, Selkup, Yakut) have the full /e ø ɤ o/. But four open-mid qualities is a tougher call yet.

Author:  mèþru [ Sat Aug 27, 2016 3:44 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: What shape is he vowel space, really?

Considering that the Scandinavian languages exist in a dialect continuum, perhaps Norwegian or Swedish have some dialect with similar vowels
The Wikipedia article for Swedish says that the standard dialect has /ɛ œ ɵ ɔ/, but it also says the first three are actually [ɛ̝, œ̝, ɵ̞].

Author:  vokzhen [ Sun Aug 28, 2016 4:21 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: What shape is he vowel space, really?


Author:  Rory [ Mon Aug 29, 2016 11:30 am ]
Post subject:  Re: What shape is he vowel space, really?


Author:  mèþru [ Mon Aug 29, 2016 12:21 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: What shape is he vowel space, really?

He's actually Scottish, from what I understand from his website: https://web.archive.org/web/20080511160 ... about.html

Author:  alice [ Mon Aug 29, 2016 1:03 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: What shape is he vowel space, really?


Author:  opipik [ Mon Aug 29, 2016 2:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: What shape is he vowel space, really?


Author:  Rory [ Tue Aug 30, 2016 8:57 am ]
Post subject:  Re: What shape is he vowel space, really?


Author:  finlay [ Tue Aug 30, 2016 10:03 am ]
Post subject:  Re: What shape is he vowel space, really?


Author:  alice [ Tue Aug 30, 2016 2:57 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: What shape is he vowel space, really?

I reckon I've been "back" with a changed username for a few months.

Anyway, the problem I now have with [u], and back vowels generally, is that I can't seem to get a decent second formant - it jumps around between about 600 Hz and 1500 Hz. Whereas other vowels it's nice and clean. What am I suffering from?

Author:  Nachtuil [ Mon Oct 24, 2016 9:23 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: What shape is he vowel space, really?

The triangular vowel space is quite appealing to me as someone who struggles to keep the central vowels apart. I am inclined to be swayed by the apparent method behind the placement too. Very fascinating to read. Two things struck me, how at least one language has a vowel harmony link between /a/ and the mid central and how I also can't keep bar i and unrounded u apart so it is appealing they are essentially the same thing.

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