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The rounded high-mid back vowel /o/
quickinfo

The rounded, high-mid, back A-class vowel/o/ is found in words such as:

Example 1

a. krokodil /kro.ko.dɪl/ [krokoˈdɪl] crocodile
b. iglo /ixlo/ [ˈixlo] igloo
c. droom /drom/ dream
d. viool /vi.ol/ [viˈol] violin

It is spelled with a single letter <o> in open syllables; this letter is doubled (<oo>) in closed syllables.

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

Figure 1: Vowel chart

[click image to enlarge]

Articulation
/o/ is a rounded, high-mid, back, A-class vowel (Collins and Mees 2003). The tongue body is somewhat retracted and raised, but less so than for /u/. The lips are rounded.

Duration
/o/ is phonetically long, though shorter than /a/ and the true diphthongs (Adank et al. 2004). It is lengthened before /r/. Absolute duration varies with the type of speech and speaking rate, but reported average durations have ranged from 105 ms in spontaneous speech (Jacobi 2009) to 184 ms in elicited read speech (Adank et al. 2004).

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[+] Acoustic properties of /o/

In the Netherlands, /o/ is diphthongal, and younger speakers have wider diphthongs (Jacobi 2009). 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. Where the table shows only one measurement, this was taken from the midpoint of the vowel; where two measurements are reported, these are taken from the onset and offset of the vowels, showing the diphthongal quality of the Northern Dutch vowels, especially.


Table 1
F1 mixed female male
Netherlands 470-399 505 487
445 464
412
Flanders 411-408 418 369

Table 2
F2 mixed female male
Netherlands 978-912 961 911
964 899
929
Flanders 851-864 968 862

Differences between NSD and BSD
In the Netherlands, /o/ is a narrow closing diphthong [ou], except before /r/ in the same word, where it has a centring glide [o][oə] (Gussenhoven (1992), and before /l/, where it is retracted (Botma et al. 2012). In Belgian Standard Dutch, /o/ is a monophthong (Verhoeven 2005).

Examples

Table 3: Soundfiles, waveforms and spectrograms of the above sound files, with indications of the relevant acoustic parameters of Northern Standard Dutch /o/
wordgroup phonological context soundfile waveform/spectogram
we zullen het zo doenwe will do it like that word-final
[click image to enlarge]
hij was kennelijk helemaal niet boosapparently, he was not angry at all pre-obstruent
[click image to enlarge]
drie mannenstemmen in koorthree male voices in choir 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 /o/
wordgroup phonological context soundfile waveform/spectogram
zo doen we dat bij onsthis is how we do it here word-final
[click image to enlarge]
zijn stem klonk booshis voice sounded angry pre-obstruent
[click image to enlarge]
een koor van dinosaurus geluidena choir of dinosaur' sounds pre-liquid
[click image to enlarge]

[+] Phonological analysis of /o/

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

/o/ as an A-class vowel
/o/ is most profitably seen as an A-class vowel, and as an alternant of the B-class vowel [ɔ], as in minimal pairs such as 2a and 2b (cf. The phonology of /ɔ/.

Example 2

a. lot [lɔt] lottery ticket, sg.
b. loten [lotən] lottery ticket, pl.

Interaction with /ʋ/
When followed by another vowel, /o/ typically develops a glide [ʋ] as example 3 shows.

Example 3

boa [boʋa] [*boa] boa

On the other hand, [ʋ] does not seem obligatory before [o]. zoölogie can be pronounced as [zooloɣi] as well as [zoʋoloɣi]. Exceptionally, /o/ is followed by a [j] in the plural vlooien[vlojən]flea, pl. of vlo[vlo]flea, sg.. This is presumably a lexicalized alternation.

Behaviour before /r/
When placed before an /r/ consonant, /o/ colours to an [ɔ]-like segment. When the /r/ occurs in the same foot, the vowel furthermore lengthens to [ɔ] (Gussenhoven 1993).

Phonotactics
Like other A-class vowels /o/ can occur at the end of a syllable; and like other A-class vowels /o/ does not occur before two non-coronal consonants. An exception is the toponym Hoorn[horn]Hoorn.

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
  • 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
  • Botma, E.D., Sebregts, K. & Smakman, D2012The phonetics and phonology of Dutch mid vowels before /l/Laboratory Phonology3273-298
  • Collins, B. & Mees, I2003The Phonetics of English and DutchLeidenE.J. Brill
  • Gussenhoven, Carlos1992DutchJournal of the International Phonetic Association2245-47
  • Gussenhoven, Carlos1992DutchJournal of the International Phonetic Association2245-47
  • Gussenhoven, Carlos1993The Dutch foot and the chanted callJournal of Linguistics2937-63
  • Jacobi, Irene2009On Variation and Change in Diphthongs and Long Vowels of Spoken DutchUniversity of AmsterdamThesis
  • Jacobi, Irene2009On Variation and Change in Diphthongs and Long Vowels of Spoken DutchUniversity of AmsterdamThesis
  • Verhoeven, Jo2005Belgian Standard DutchJournal of the International Phonetic Association35243-247
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