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The rounded high front-central vowel /y/
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The rounded, high, front-central A-class vowel/y/ is found in words such as:

Example 1

a. nu /ny/ now
b. humor /hy.mɔr/ [ˈhymɔr] comedy, humour
c. bruto /bry.to/ [ˈbryto] gross amount, bruto
d. puur /pyr/ pure
e. kostuum /kɔs.tym/ [kɔsˈtym] suit, dress

It is spelled with a single letter <u> in open syllables (see (1a)-(1c)); this letter is doubled (<uu>) in closed syllables (see (1d)-(1e)).

Figure 1(cf. Gussenhoven 1992) depicts the (Dutch) vowel's position within the vowel chart.

Figure 1

[click image to enlarge]

Articulation
/y/ is a rounded, high, front-central, A-class vowel. The tongue body is fronted, the tongue tip is down. Articulation is like that of /i/ except with rounded lips: the front cavity is enlarged because of pursing of the lips (Collins and Mees 2003; Eijkman 1937).

Duration
/y/ is phonetically short, but it has a lengthened allophone before /r/. In Northern Standard Dutch, this allophone is also centralised and glides towards [ə] (Collins and Mees 2003). Absolute duration varies with the type of speech and speaking rate, but reported average durations have ranged from 77 ms (Van Son and Pols 1990) to 108 ms (Rietveld et al. 2004) in elicited read speech.

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[+] Acoustic properties of /y/

Formant values vary with the type of speech, gender of the speaker, and speech community (the Netherlands or Flanders). Below are some reported average F1/F2 values.


Table 1
F1 mixed female male
Netherlands 275 288 305
284 305 308
259
Flanders 281 337 265
304

Table 2
F2 mixed female male
Netherlands 1795 1832 1730
1826 1918 1819
1734
Flanders 1929 2077 1825
1942

Differences between NSD and BSD
/y/ has been said to have a somewhat longer duration in Belgian Standard Dutch than in Northern Standard Dutch (Collins and Mees 2003), although Adank et al.'s (2004) results only show this for their female speakers.

Examples

Table 3: Soundfiles, waveforms and spectrograms of the above sound files, with indications of the relevant acoustic parameters of Northern Standard Dutch /y/
wordgroup phonological context soundfile waveform/spectogram
(...) en nu gauw naar binnen(...) and now soon inside word-final
[click image to enlarge]
Van Hooijdonk heeft zijn debuut gemaakt voor FeyenoordVan Hooijdonk made his debut for Feyenoord pre-obstruent
[click image to enlarge]
het was puur gelukit was sheer luck pre-liquid
[click image to enlarge]

Table 4: Soundfiles, waveforms and spectrograms of the above sound files, with indications of the relevant acoustic parameters of Southern Standard Dutch /y/
wordgroup phonological context soundfile waveform/spectogram
en nu ligt Anna alleen in Transitand now Anna lies alone in Transit word-final
[click image to enlarge]
hij maakte zijn debuut ten tijde van de stomme filmhe made his debut in the silent film era pre-obstruent
[click image to enlarge]
puur per ongelukpurely by accident pre-liquid
[click image to enlarge]

[+] Phonological analysis of /y/

A possible feature specification of /y/ is +high, -low, +tense, +round, -back.

/y/ as an A-class vowel
/y/ is most profitably seen as an A-class vowel, although it is not so clear what its B-class vowel alternant would be; /ʏ/ is sometimes mentioned as such, but the reason for this seems purely orthographic (both vowels are spelled with u); there is more reason to relate /y/ to the B-class vowel /ʏ/.

Interaction with glides
When followed by another vowel, /y/ typically develops a glide [ʋ] or [j]:

Example 2

duo [dyjo] / [dyʋo]

Which glide is realized seems dependent on (at least) the speaker and the individual lexical item (Van Oostendorp 2000), but the variation is otherwise not very well understood. The sequence [ʋy] is rare, although not completely ruled out in Dutch (Wuustwezelplace name). The sequence [jy] seems relatively common (juristlawyer).

Behaviour before /r/
When placed before an /r/consonant in the same foot, /y/ lengthens to [yː] (Gussenhoven 1993).

Phonotactics
Like other A-class vowels /y/ can occur at the end of a syllable; and like other A-class vowels /y/ tends not to occur before two non-coronal consonants.

References:
  • Adank, Patti, Hout, Roeland van & Smits, Roel2004An acoustic description of the vowels of Northern and Southern Standard DutchJournal of the Acoustical Society of America1161729--1738
  • Collins, B. & Mees, I2003The Phonetics of English and DutchLeidenE.J. Brill
  • Collins, B. & Mees, I2003The Phonetics of English and DutchLeidenE.J. Brill
  • Collins, B. & Mees, I2003The Phonetics of English and DutchLeidenE.J. Brill
  • Eijkman, L.P.H1937Phonetiek van het NederlandsHaarlemDe Erven F. Bohn N.V.
  • Gussenhoven, Carlos1992DutchJournal of the International Phonetic Association2245-47
  • Gussenhoven, Carlos1993The Dutch foot and the chanted callJournal of Linguistics2937-63
  • Oostendorp, Marc van2000Phonological ProjectionNiemeyer
  • Rietveld, Toni, Kerkhoff, Joop & Gussenhoven, Carlos2004Word prosodic structure and vowel duration in DutchJournal of Phonetics32349-371
  • Son, Rob J. J. H. van & Pols, Louis C. W1990Formant frequencies of Dutch vowels in a text, read at normal and fast rateJournal of the Acoustical Society of America881683-1693
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