Vowel merger in Australian English lateral-final rimes: /æɔ-æ/

Tünde Szalay, Titia Benders, Felicity Cox, Michael Proctor

Thursday, December 15th, 2022, 3pm – 3.30pm


Pre-lateral contrast reduction between Australian English /æɔ-æ/ (howl-Hal) compared to other environments might indicate an ongoing merger. Our apparent-time study explores this merger. Spectral and temporal characteristics of /æɔ-æ/ produced in pre-lateral and pre-obstruent contexts by 19 older and 15 younger speakers were compared. Acoustic vowel similarity was captured using random forest classification and hierarchical cluster analysis of dynamic formant properties and duration values. Consistent with a pre-lateral merger, younger speakers showed reduced pre-lateral vowel contrast than older speakers, and young male speakers produced /æɔl-æl/ similarly to pre-obstruent /æɔ/. Pre-lateral /æɔ-æ/ merger is attributed to younger speakers’ changing F2 trajectories.