Phonetics and Phonology of Vowels and Consonants

Vowels and consonants are the basic units of speech as they make up the segmental composition of an utterance. The acoustics of vowels and consonants are extremely complex. The reason is that their acoustic manifestation varies greatly depending on the physiological properties of the speaker, the language variety, and the segmental context. For instance, there are assimilation and dissimilation processes depending on the preceding and following sound. In several studies, I explore how dialects affect the acoustic structure of consonants and vowel.

Specifically, in Themistocleous (2017), I investigate the acoustic properties of vowels of Standard Modern Greek (SMG) and Cypriot Greek (CG). The study shows the two varieties differ in their vowels. Specifically, (1) stressed vowels are more peripheral than unstressed vowels, (2) SMG unstressed /i u/ vowels are more raised than CG vowels, (3) SMG unstressed vowels are shorter than CG unstressed vowels, and (4) SMG /i o u/ are more rounded than the corresponding CG vowels. Moreover, it shows that variation applies to specific subsystems, as it is the unstressed vowels that vary cross-varietally whereas the stressed vowels display only minor differences. The implications of these findings with respect to vowel raising and vowel reduction are discussed.

Another issue that I explore are the properties of vowel dynamics. What I show in a submitted article is that Standard Modern Greek and Cypriot Greek differ in their vowel dynamics. The findings show that although Modern Greek vowels are considered relatively monothoptongal, their formants change during articulation significantly. Low and middle vowels shift from low to high; the high vowel [i] remains relatively static and the vowel [u] becomes more fronted. Most importantly the vowel quality, the stress, and the dialect of the speaker affect significantly the formant dynamics. The study argues that the dynamic approaches can constitute a significant methodological improvement over static approaches of vowels.

In a short article published in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America (JASA), I investigated the effects of the dialect of the speaker on the spectral properties of stop bursts. The findings show that besides linguistic information, i.e., the place of articulation and the stress, the speech signals of bursts can encode social information, i.e., the dialects. A classification model using decision trees showed that skewness and standard deviation have a major contribution for the classification of bursts across dialects.

In the following submitted articles, I explore the dynamic effects of Greek vowels and show that vowel dynamics convey dialectal information even for languages that are characterized by relatively monopthongal vowels without significant transitions such as Greek. I also, explore the acoustics of fricatives and their coarticulatory properties with the following vowels. Themistocleous, Charalambos (submitted/a).