5th International Conference on Spoken Language Processing

Sydney, Australia
November 30 - December 4, 1998

On The Structure Of Vowel Space: A Genealogy Of General Phonetic Concepts

Hendrik F. V. Boshoff, Elizabeth C. Botha

University of Pretoria, South Africa

This paper gives an overview and an analysis of representative vowel space depictions found in the phonetic literature of the past four centuries. A visual representation of 24 selected structural proposals with time is given in poster form, after translation to a common notation. A first-order approach is developed by which the distance between any pair of vowel schemes may be measured. Using these distances and other considerations, trends are detected and major innovations identified. An attempt is then made to trace the genealogy of five general phonetic concepts concerning the structure of vowel space: discretizing the continuum, the assumption of symmetry, triangular vs. square arrangements, the development of 'roundedness' as an independent dimension and the treatment of 'central' vowels. Such a historical perspective is deemed necessary for a full appreciation and utilization of the current vowel schemes. The poster and other relevant files are available at http://www.ee.up.ac.za/hendrik/icslp5.

Full Paper   Images
The image file [.pdf] contains a view of the poster presented at the conference, and referred to in the paper. 24 vowel schemes are displayed chronologically with relations among them indicated. A 3-D bar diagram of the 'distances' calculated between them is also included.

Bibliographic reference.  Boshoff, Hendrik F. V. / Botha, Elizabeth C. (1998): "On the structure of vowel space: a genealogy of general phonetic concepts", In ICSLP-1998, paper 0969.