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Analyses of the post-vocalic voicing contrast in two varieties of German

This project is part of the German Research Council Fondation (DFG) Priority Programme 1234: Phonological and phonetic competence: between grammar, signal procesing, and neural activity

Funding, application period

DFG, 2006 - 2011

Project description

In models of phonology based on the generative tradition, speech is represented as a set of categories and rewrite rules that transform these categories to speech output via a universal phonetic component. However, recent evidence from a number of studies in the area of laboratory phonology suggests that phonological knowledge is not categorical but needs to incorporate probabilistic information; that fine phonetic detail is stored in the lexicon; that phonological knowledge may well vary from speaker to speaker even of the same dialect; and that the cues that distinguish between categories can be broadly distributed across prosodic domains. In this proposal, we explore a number of these issues through a phonology-phonetic relationship that has received considerable attention in the literature, namely the post-vocalic voicing contrast in German. Five types of analyses will be undertaken. Firstly, whether neutralization of the voicing contrast is complete. Secondly, whether there are differences between the production and perception of contrasts in a neutralizing context. Thirdly, whether probabilistic information based on combinations of vowels’ tensity and voicing features in German influence perceptual judgements of voicing contrasts. Fourthly, whether speaker differences, dialect and linguistic background influence the perception of the voicing contrast. Finally, we use corpus-based, articulatory, and acoustic techniques to investigate the extent to which the post-vocalic voicing contrast in German can be modelled by phonological features such as [voice] or [tense]. In more general terms, the proposal seeks to make a contribution to our understanding of the relationship between speech production, speech perception, and phonological structure.


Kleber, F., John, T., Harrington, J. (2010). The implications for speech perception of incomplete neutralization of final devoicing in German. Journal of Phonetics, 38, 185-196.

John, T. & Harrington, J. (2007). Temporal alignment of creaky voice in neutralised realisations of an underlying, post-nasal voicing contrast in German. Proceedings of Interspeech 2007, Antwerp, 986-989.


Website SPP 1234