First International Workshop on the History of Speech Communication Research (HSCR 2015)

Dresden, Germany
September 4-5, 2015

A Brief History of Articulatory-Acoustic Vowel Representation

Coriandre Vilain, Frédéric Berthommier, Louis-Jean Boë

Univ. Grenoble Alpes, CNRS, GIPSA-Lab, Grenoble, France

This paper aims at following the concept of vowel space across history. It shows that even with very poor experimental means, researchers from the 17th century started to organize the vowel systems along perceptual dimensions, either articulatory, by means of proprioceptive introspection, or auditory. With the development of experimental devices, and the increasing knowledge in acoustic and articulatory theories in the 19th century, it is shown how the relationship between the two dimensions tended to tighten. At the mid 20th century, the link between articulatory parameters such as jaw opening, position of the constriction of the tongue, or lip rounding, and the acoustical values of formants was clear. At this period, with the increasing amount of phonological descriptions of the languages of the world, and the power of the computer database analysis allowing extracting universal tendencies, the question of how the vowel systems are organized arose. The paper discusses this important question, focusing on two points: (1) how the auditory constraints shape the positioning of a specific set of vowel within the acoustic space, and (2) how the articulatory constraints shape the maximal extension of the vowel systems, the so-called maximal vowel space (MVS).

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Vilain, Coriandre / Berthommier, Frédéric / Boë, Louis-Jean (2015): "A brief history of articulatory-acoustic vowel representation", In HSCR-2015, 148-159.