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Kunay, Esther; Hoole, Philip; Gubian, Michele; Harrington, Jonathan; Jospeh, Arun; Voit, Dirk and Frahm, Jens (2022): Vowel height and velum position in German: Insights from a real-time magnetic resonance imaging study. In: Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, Vol. 152, No. 6: pp. 3483-3501 [PDF, 3MB]


Velum position was analysed as a function of vowel height in German tense and lax vowels preceding a nasal or oral consonant. Findings from previous research suggest an interdependence between vowel height and the degree of velum lowering, with a higher velum during high vowels and a more lowered velum during low vowels. In the current study, data were presented from 33 native speakers of Standard German who were measured via non-invasive high quality real-time magnetic resonance imaging. The focus was on exploring the spatiotemporal extent of velum lowering in tense and lax /a, i, o, ø/, which was done by analysing velum movement trajectories over the course of VN and VC sequences in CVNV and CVCV sequences by means of functional principal component analysis. Analyses focused on the impact of the vowel category and vowel tenseness. Data indicated that not only the position of the velum was affected by these factors but also the timing of velum closure. Moreover, it is argued that the effect of vowel height was to be better interpreted in terms of the physiological constriction location of vowels, i.e., the specific tongue position rather than phonetic vowel height.

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