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An Acoustic Analysis of Vowel Pronunciation in Swedish Dialects

(2010) Leinonen, Therese

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 (PCA) of Bark-filtered spectra. High correlations with formants were measured for a subset of the data. Separate PCAs of vowels produced by men and women effectively reduced the variation in the acoustic measures related to anatomical/physiological differences between the sexes.

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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