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An acoustic analysis of vowel pronunciation in Swedish dialects

01 July 2010

PhD ceremony: Ms. T.N. Leinonen, 13.15 uur, Academiegebouw, Broerstraat 5, Groningen

Thesis: An acoustic analysis of vowel pronunciation in Swedish dialects

Promotor(s): prof. J. Nerbonne, prof. V.J. van Heuven

Faculty: Arts


The aim of this thesis was to study dialectal variation in Swedish vowel pronunciation. The data were recorded within the project SweDia at 98 rural sites in Sweden and the Swedish speaking parts of Finland around year 2000. At each site approximately twelve speakers were recorded: three older women, three older men, three younger women and three younger men. The vowel quality of nineteen different vowels was analyzed acoustically by means of principal component analysis of Bark-filtered spectra.

Dialectal variation was studied both in each vowel and on an aggregate level. The thesis includes maps that display the pronunciation of each vowel in the two age groups at each site. Co-occurring vowel features were identified by a factor analysis. The aggregate analysis showed that the Swedish dialects form a linguistic continuum without abrupt dialect borders. Within the continuous distribution of vowel features, however, some more coherent dialect areas can be identified.

The analyses indicate a large-scale leveling of Swedish dialects. In central Sweden the aggregate distance in vowel pronunciation between older and younger speakers is large. In some peripheral areas the linguistic change is smaller. The ongoing change in vowel pronunciation in central Sweden is connected to an ongoing chain shift in front mid-vowels. This language change is the result of dialect contact in combination with convergence to Standard Swedish.



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