Acoustic Characteristics of Welsh Vowels
Cardiff Metropolitan University
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A bilingual client should be assessed in all the languages to which they are exposed (RCSLT, 2006). Normative data on the acoustical characteristics of normally produced Welsh vowels is minimal and consequently inadequate as a basis for assessing and determining vowel disorders in the Welsh speaking population. Descriptive accounts of Welsh vowels indicate that systemic differences can be observed between Northern and Southern varieties (Ball & Williams, 2001). However, very few studies have attempted to corroborate these claims acoustically, and the data readily available on the regional variation in Welsh vowel systems remains limited. The present study aims to provide normative data on the acoustical properties of Welsh monophthong vowels as produced by eight Welsh speakers from North West Wales and eight Welsh speakers from South West Wales. Male participants were recruited from a local Welsh society by means of snowball sampling. Audio voice recordings of provided reading material were conducted using the Zoom H2 recorder in an acoustically appropriate room provided by the Welsh society. The results indicate a distinctive production of all monophthong vowels by Northern Welsh speakers whilst South Welsh speakers displayed distinctive productions of the majority of vowels, but failed to distinguish between the front vowel /iː/ and the central vowel /ː/ producing both as close front vowels. Significant differences were found between the first (F1) and second formant (F2) values of the vowels /ː, eː, oː/ when produced by Northern and Southern speakers of Welsh. Where minimal differences were observed between the F1 and F2 values of two vowels such as /a/ and /ɑː/, temporal characteristics provided crucial information to the identification of a vowel. In contrast to previous research, (Jones, 1984; Ball & Williams, 2001) clear qualitative and quantitative differences were observed between tense and lax vowels by both varieties of Welsh speakers. The clinical implications of this study for speech and language therapists working with vowel disorders are discussed.
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