Heavens, what a sound! The acoustics and articulation of Swedish Viby-i

Westerberg, Fabienne Elina (2020) Heavens, what a sound! The acoustics and articulation of Swedish Viby-i. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis provides a phonetic case study of the Swedish /i:/ variant known as Viby-i (sometimes also called Lidingö-i). This sound is characterised by an unusual 'thick', 'buzzing' vowel quality, but its articulation has long been disputed. Previous research suggests that this vowel may be subject to articulatory trade-off, whereby speakers can achieve the same sound using different articulatory strategies. There are also indications that Viby-i may be subject to sociolinguistic variation, as it appears to be spreading across Sweden, and it is frequently used as a prestige marker in urban dialects. This thesis addresses the issues of how speakers produce Viby-i, how its acoustic properties relate to its articulation, and how it is used across different social and linguistic contexts.

The study presents data from 34 Swedish speakers from Gothenburg, Stockholm, and Uppsala, recorded with simultaneous audio, ultrasound tongue imaging, and lip video. The speakers' /i:/ productions are analysed acoustically with regard to their formant values, dynamic properties, and frication. Linguistic and social variation is also explored using a word list and a demographic questionnaire. The articulatory analysis establishes the tongue gestures and lip positions used to produce Viby-i, and investigates the link between acoustics and articulation using a set of normalised articulatory measurement points, which are compared to the first two formants.

The acoustic analysis shows that Viby-i is characterised by a low acoustic F2, which is usually lower than [e:], and a relatively high F1, which is usually similar to [e:]. Linguistic context has a small but reliable effect on formant values, and also affects the fricated offglide of the vowel. All speakers in the sample are found to use Viby-i rather than standard [i:], but regional differences exist in both acoustics and articulation.

The articulatory analysis reveals that Viby-i can be produced with a variety of tongue shapes, most of which involve a low, fronted tongue body, high tongue tip, and retraction of the postdorsal part of the tongue. Surprisingly, the low F2 is not produced by lip-rounding or overall tongue backing, but appears to be caused by a combination of tongue lowering and post-dorsal retraction. Young speakers retract more than old speakers, with no difference in acoustics. Frication during the vowel is associated with a raised, fronted tongue tip, or in velar contexts, by a raised tongue body.

There are several implications of these findings for the wider literature. Firstly, Viby-i appears to be more widespread in Central Sweden than previously assumed, and it may already have replaced the standard variant [i:], although further research is needed to confirm this. Secondly, the 'mismatch' between acoustics and articulation demonstrates the benefit of including articulatory data in the analysis of vowel sounds. Finally, the study shows that traditional frameworks of vowel analysis may be too simplistic to adequately describe the articulation of complex vowel sounds, and that new methods may be required as articulatory data becomes increasingly available.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: phonetics, sociolinguistics, vowels, swedish, acoustic analysis, articulation, ultrasound tongue imaging, frication, change in progress, viby-i.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics
P Language and Literature > PB Modern European Languages
P Language and Literature > PD Germanic languages
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > English Language and Linguistics
Funder's Name: Economic and Social Research Council
Supervisor's Name: Stuart-Smith, Professor Jane
Date of Award: 2020
Depositing User: Ms Fabienne Westerberg
Unique ID: glathesis:2020-81886
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 12 Jan 2021 10:35
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2021 15:04
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.81886
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/81886

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