Vowel spaces and systems

Doug Hitch


Human language uses two kinds of vowel space: acoustic defined by the F1 vs. F2 quadrilateral, and psychological defined by spatial features (high, low, back, front) which themselves are derived in relation to an often extralinguistic neutral vowel. Lip rounding is not a primary feature of vowel systems. Phonetically front rounded and back unrounded vowels may serve in the psychological space as central vowels. Spatial features define vocalic planes with between two and nine vowels. The interplay between the asymmetrical acoustic space and the symmetrical psychological space produces the known variety in size and shape of vowel systems among the world’s languages.


Vowel Systems, Universals, Vowel Space

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Copyright (c) 2017 Doug Hitch