ASA 127th Meeting M.I.T. 1994 June 6-10

3pSP22. A report on the vowels of traditional speakers of Western Navajo and the implications for a theory of vowel dispersion.

Joyce McDonough

Dept. of Linguist., Ohio State Univ., 1712 Neill Ave., Columbus, OH 43210

Navajo has a marked vowel space, four long and short vowel pairs with a gap in the high back area. A consistent (monodialectic), conservative (near monolingual) group of Navajo speakers were recorded in the field. Vowel formants were measured and plotted on a bark scale, statistics were performed on vowel pairs and groups. Dispersion and quantal theories predict specific tendencies which do not occur. The results showed a very marked triangular vowel space: two front vowel pairs are compacted into a small area, a high back gap is maintained. Three issues are examined: vowel quality enhancement of the long-short contrasts, distribution of vowels in the tight high front space, and the dispersion of the mid back vowels and their relation to mid front vowels. A quality enhancement is consistently reported in the literature for the high front vowel alone. While statistically reliable differences were found in the vowel pairs along the F1 axis, only the high front vowel showed differences along F1 and F2' axis. These results imply different, possibly acoustic, targets for the long and short high front vowels while the differences in other pairs is due to undershoot. [Work supported by NIH and American Philosophical Society.]

Precis presentations will be held in the Kresge Main Theatre from 12:45 p.m. to 2:40 p.m. followed by poster displays in Kresge Rehearsal Room B. Posters will be on display and all authors will be at their posters from 2:45 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.