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The unrounded front diphthong /ɛi/
quickinfo

The unrounded front diphthong /ɛi/ is found in words such as:

Example 1

a. mei /mɛi/ May
b. klein /klɛin/ small
c. tijd /tɛid/ [tɛit] time
d. bijl /bɛil/ axe

Spelling
Dutch spells [ɛi] in two different ways: as <ei> and <ij>. These reflect different historical origins for the sound, but there is no standard variety of Dutch pronunciation which reflects the distinction anymore. (See also the topic about the spelling of diphthongs.)

Figure 1(cf. Gussenhoven 1992) depicts the position of the (Dutch) diphthong within the vowel chart.

Figure 1: Vowel chart

[click image to enlarge]

Articulation
/ɛi/ is an unrounded, front, diphthong that moves from low-mid to high-mid (Collins and Mees 2003). It is centralised and has a narrower glide before /l/ (Collins and Mees 2003). Younger speakers of Northern Standard Dutch may have a wider diphthong, towards [æi] (Jacobi 2009).

Duration
/ɛi/ is phonetically long, like the other true diphthongs and /a/ (Adank et al. 2004). Absolute duration varies with the type of speech and speaking rate, but reported average durations have ranged from 106 ms in spontaneous speech (Jacobi 2009) to 199 ms in elicited read speech (Adank et al. 2004).

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[+] Acoustic properties of ɛi

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 diphthong; where two measurements are reported, these are taken from the onset and offset of the diphthongs.


Table 1
F1 mixed female male
Netherlands 656-390 659 543
Flanders 570-410 670 545

Table 2
F2 mixed female male
Netherlands 1827-2162 2097 1804
Flanders 2028-2257 2159 1779

Examples

Table 3: Soundfiles, waveforms and spectrograms of the above sound files, with indications of the relevant acoustic parameters of Northern Standard Dutch /ɛi/
wordgroup phonological context soundfile waveform/spectogram
mei 1991May 1991 word-final
[click image to enlarge]
hij had een lange reis gemaakthe had made a long journey pre-obstruent
[click image to enlarge]
in nieuwe stijlin a new style 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 /ɛi/
wordgroup phonological context soundfile waveform/spectogram
in mei 1847in May 1847 word-final
[click image to enlarge]
op je reis naar gezondheidon your journey to health pre-obstruent
[click image to enlarge]
in Victoriaanse stijlin Victorian style pre-liquid
[click image to enlarge]

[+] Phonological analysis of /ɛi/

Features
A possible feature specification of  /ɛi/ as a diphthong; a possible feature specification is -high, +low, -tense, -round, -back +high, -low, +tense, -round, -back.

Phonotactics
/ɛi/ can occur in open syllables as well as in syllables closed by one non-coronal consonant.

Stress
As a diphthong, /ɛi/ attracts stress; there are no monomorphemic words with /ɛi/ in unstressed position.

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
  • Collins, B. & Mees, I2003The Phonetics of English and DutchLeidenE.J. Brill
  • Collins, B. & Mees, I2003The Phonetics of English and DutchLeidenE.J. Brill
  • Gussenhoven, Carlos1992DutchJournal of the International Phonetic Association2245-47
  • 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
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