Perceptual vowel contrast reduction in Australian English /l/-final rimes

Tünde Szalay*, Titia Benders, Felicity Cox, Michael Proctor

*Corresponding author for this work

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In Australian English rimes, coarticulation between coda /l/ and its preceding vowel has the potential to attenuate cues that contribute to phonological vowel contrast. Therefore, vowel-/l/ coarticulation may increase ambiguity between prelateral vowels. We used a vowel identification task to test the effect of vowel-/l/ coarticulation on vowel disambiguation in perception. Listeners categorized vowels in /hVd/ and /hVl/ contexts. Results showed reduced accuracy of vowels before coda /l/ compared to coda /d/, showing that coda /l/ increases vowel disambiguation difficulty. In particular, reduced perceptual contrast was found for the rime pairs /ʉ:l-ʊl, æͻl-æl/ and /əʉl-ͻl/ (e.g., fool-full, howl-Hal, dole-doll). A second experiment tested the effect of reduced perceptual contrast on word recognition. Listeners identified minimal pairs contrasting key vowel pairs in the /CVl/ and /CVd/ contexts. Reduced accuracy and increased response time in /l/ contexts shows that coda /l/ hinders listeners' ability to identify vowels. The implications of reduced perceptual vowel contrast for compensation for coarticulation and sound change are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9
Number of pages25
JournalLaboratory phonology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 12 Apr 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2021. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • vowel disambiguation
  • word recognition
  • coarticulation
  • lateral approximant
  • Australian English


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