Compensation for coarticulation, /u/-fronting, and sound change in standard southern British: An acoustic and perceptual study

Jonathan Harrington*, Felicitas Kleber, Ulrich Reubold

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    113 Citations (Scopus)


    The aim of the study was to establish whether /u/-fronting, a sound change in progress in standard southern British, could be linked synchronically to the fronting effects of a preceding anterior consonant both in speech production and speech perception. For the production study, which consisted of acoustic analyses of isolated monosyllables produced by two different age groups, it was shown for younger speakers that /u/ was phonetically fronted and that the coarticulatory influence of consonants on /u/ was less than in older speakers. For the perception study, responses were elicited from the same subjects to two minimal word-pair continua that differed in the direction of the consonants' coarticulatory fronting effects on /u/. Consistent with their speech production, young listeners' /u/ category boundary was shifted toward /i/ and they compensated perceptually less for the fronting effects of the consonants on /u/ than older listeners. The findings support Ohala's model in which certain sound changes can be linked to the listener's failure to compensate for coarticulation. The results are also shown to be consistent with episodic models of speech perception in which phonological frequency effects bring about a realignment of the variants of a phonological category in speech production and perception.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)2825-2835
    Number of pages11
    JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 2008


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