Third International Conference on Spoken Language Processing (ICSLP 94)

Yokohama, Japan
September 18-22, 1994

Towards a universal, phonetically-based, theory of vowel harmony

John J. Ohala

University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA

Vowel Harmony (VH), phonological co-occurrence constraints between the features of vowels in polysyllabic words, is a fossilized remnant of an earlier phonetic process involving vowel-to-vowel assimilation. An understanding of the workings and constraints of VH can give us clues on how such inter-syllabic assimilations work and would be important for spoken language processing, e.g., motivating speech recognition using triphones. A universal, phonetically-based, theory of vowel harmony should explain why only certain distinctive features of vowels are subject to harmony, how "neutral" vowels arise, what intervening phonetic contexts favor or disfavor harmony.

Full Paper

Bibliographic reference.  Ohala, John J. (1994): "Towards a universal, phonetically-based, theory of vowel harmony", In ICSLP-1994, 491-494.