Phonetik und Sprachverarbeitung

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Diphthong Dynamics


PI: Marianne Pouplier

Funding, application period

DFG (DFG-Süd), 2023-2025

Project description

The overarching objective of our proposal is to further our understanding of the inner temporal dynamics of diphthongs across a range of diphthongs and for two different languages. Despite diphthongs being part of many vowel inventories in the world’s languages, there is a dearth of knowledge about what the defining characteristics of diphthongs are and how to capture theoretically and empirically their oscillating identity between unity (single unit) and duality (sequence of two units). Our proposed work will capitalize on the diphthong inventories of Tyrolean and Sardinian, as well as on recent advances in data quantification methods in the phonetic sciences to significantly deepen our knowledge of diphthong dynamics in speech production. Tyrolean and Sardinian are well suited as objects of investigation due to their rich but contrasting diphthong inventories comprising presumably structurally different diphthong types. Our work will provide the first comprehensive phonetic description of the vowel inventories of two phonetically understudied languages, including their numerous diphthongs. We will acoustically record the vowel inventory (monophthongs and diphthongs) for Tyrolean as spoken in the city of Meran and for the Cagliari Campidanese variety of Sardinian, an endangered language. We plan to exploit state-of-the art statistical techniques for the analysis of time series data to study the inner temporal structure of the diphthongs of these two languages under varying prosodic conditions. These analyses are designed to open new vistas on the question whether diphthongs can be understood as a sequence of two vocalic gestures, coarticulated to varying degrees, or whether the target of diphthong production is a dynamic transitional movement through the vowel space. Expanding our knowledge of diphthong dynamics across languages, and their relation to both monophthongs and vowel sequences (hiatus) is crucial to deepening our theoretical and empirical understanding of types of vowels and synchronic vowel systems, the evolutionary paths vowel systems take diachronically, as well as theories of speech production, which rarely deal with diphthongs. This project is a collaborative research project with Prof. Alessandro Vietti, Free University Bozen, Italy.