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The influence of speech style on vowel reduction
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The likelihood of vowel reduction in unstressed syllables increases with a growing informality of speech style. In the literature, this influence has been expressed in a Speech Style Scale: it is usually grouped into three different speech styles, which, following Booij (1977) we label as ‘Formal’, ‘Semi-Formal’, and ‘Informal’. This three-way division relates to three different patterns of vowel reduction: one without reduction and two (distinct) variants with different patterns of reduction.

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Below, we illustrate this by taking the words fonologie[ˌfo.no.lo.ˈɣi]phonology and economie[ˌe.ko.no.ˈmi]economy as examples:


Table 1
Syllable PAPUˌσ APUσ PUσ Uˈσ Speech style
Unreduced form ˌfo

ˌe

no

ko

lo

no

ˈɣi

ˈmi

Formal
Partial reduction ˌfo

ˌe

lo

no

ˈɣi

ˈmi

Semi-formal
Full reduction ˌfo

ˌe

ˈɣi

ˈmi

Informal

A fourth possible pattern, reduction only in the third syllable of the word, is prohibited as vowels following a stressed syllable reduce more easily than vowels following an unstressed syllable.

References:
  • Booij, Geert1977Dutch morphology. A study of word formation in generative grammarLisse / DordrechtThe Peter de Ridder Press / Foris Publications
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