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The influence of vowel quality on vowel reduction
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There is general agreement among scholars that not all full vowels show similar reduction patterns. The scale is realised more clearly in A-class vowels (in open syllables) than in B-class vowels (in closed syllables); the latter generally show less reduction than A-class vowels. The scale for A-class vowels is usually assumed to correlate with vowel height and rounding: high vowels reduce less often than non-high ones, and round vowels show less reduction than non-round ones. Furthermore, diphthongs never reduce.

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While the general lines of the reduction scale are similar among different authors, there is no consensus concerning the exact order in the hierarchy. Consider the following reduction hierarchies: the higher an element is in the scale, the more likely it is that it will be reduced in an unstressed syllable. While Kager (1989) and Van Oostendorp (1995) focus on A-class vowels, Booij (1995) also incorporates some B-class vowels in the scale:

Table 1
Likelihood of vowel reduction in unstressed syllable syllables (decreasing)
Kager (1989) Van Oostendorp (1995) Booij (1995)
/e/ /e/ /e, ɪ/
/a/ /a/ /a, ɑ/
/o, ø/ /o, ø/ /o, ɔ/
/i/ /i, y, u/ /i/
/y, u/ /y, u, ø/

As can be observed, the most crucial difference among the different proposals is to be found in the classification of /ø/, which Kager and Van Oostendorp regard as being in the middle of the hierarchy (together with /o/), whereas Booij groups it with the high vowels /u, y/. These differences can be attributed to the limited number of relevant data, as /ø/ rarely occurs in unstressed syllables at all. Diphthongs never reduce, therefore, they are absent in the table.

Example 1

pleidooi [plɛi.ˈdoj] [*plə.ˈdoj] plea
seizoen [sɛi.ˈzun] [*sə.ˈzun] season
Paulíen [pɑu.ˈlin] [*pə.ˈlin] Pauline
References:
  • Booij, Geert1995The phonology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • Booij, Geert1995The phonology of DutchOxfordOxford University Press
  • Kager, René1989A Metrical Theory of Stress and Destressing in English and DutchDordrechtForis
  • Kager, René1989A Metrical Theory of Stress and Destressing in English and DutchDordrechtForis
  • Oostendorp, Marc van1995Vowel Quality and Phonological ProjectionTilburg UniversityThesis
  • Oostendorp, Marc van1995Vowel Quality and Phonological ProjectionTilburg UniversityThesis
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