A phonetic study of length and duration in Kyrgyz vowels





Turkic languages, acoustic phonetics, Kyrgyz, vowel duration, vowel length, edge effects


This paper examines the phonetic correlates of the (phonological) vowel length contrast in Kyrgyz to address a range of questions about the nature of this contrast, and also explores factors that affect (phonetic) duration in short vowels. Measurement and analysis of the vowels confirms that there is indeed a significant duration distinction between the Kyrgyz vowel categories referred to as short and long vowels. Preliminary midpoint formant measurements show that there may be some accompanying spectral component to the length contrast for certain vowels, but findings are not conclusive. A comparison of F0 dynamics and spectral dynamics through long and short vowels does not yield evidence that some long vowels may in fact be two heterosyllabic short vowels. Analysis shows that duration is associated with a vowel’s presence in word-edge syllables in Kyrgyz, as anticipated based on descriptions of word-final stress and initial prominence. However, high vowels and non-high vowels are found to consistently exhibit opposite durational effects. Specifically, high vowels in word-edge syllables are longer than high vowels in medial syllables, while non-high vowels in word-edge syllables are shorter than non-high vowels in medial syllables. This suggests either a phenomenon of durational neutralisation at word edges or the exaggeration of durational differences word-medially, and is not taken as a case of word-edge strengthening. Proposals for how to select from between these hypotheses in future work are discussed.

Author Biographies

  • Nathaniel Ziv Stern, Swarthmore College
  • Jonathan North Washington, Swarthmore College
    Assistant Professor, Linguistics