Acoustic aspects of vowel harmony in French

Noël Nguyen, Zsuzsanna Fagyal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper examines acoustic aspects of vowel harmony (VH), understood as regressive vowel-to-vowel assimilation, in two regional varieties of French in six speakers' productions of 107 disyllabic word pairs. In each word pair, the word-initial vowel (V1) was phonemically either /e/ or /o/, and the word-final stressed vowel (V2) alternated between / e - ε /, / ø - œ /, / o -/ or / i - a /. Results are consistent with the idea that VH in French entails variations in tongue height along with related displacement of the tongue position along the front-back axis. These effects were independent of both the number of morphemes and lexical frequency. They were more systematic in Northern than in Southern French speakers' speech. Linear mixed-effects models strongly suggest that VH is a gradient effect of the trigger on the harmonizing vowel. Results lend support to usage-based phonological approaches regarding gradient phonetic differences as part of the gestural scores that make up the lexicon and that can be variably grammaticalized in different varieties of the language.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-27
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Phonetics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Speech and Hearing


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