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The Phonology of Vowels

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Cross-linguistically, vowels have a lower functional load than consonants when their contrastive function is considered. According to the World Atlas of Language Structures, languages tend to have three to four times as many consonants than vowels. Vowels partake in a striking range of phonological processes, and the investigation of such processes has led to a range of theoretical insights, involving the internal structure of segments, that is, the nature and geometrical organization of features, phonological domains in the prosodic hierarchy and the architecture of grammar.

The aim of this edited volume is to give an overview of the cross-linguistic empirical patterns involving vowels from a theoretical perspective, for which we have invited a roster of internationally renowned scholars. The volume is organized in seventeen chapters, each dedicated to a different aspect of the phonology of vowels, covering representational issues, the different phonological processes that vowels are involved in from apophony to reduction, different particularly interesting types of vowels, such as schwa, diphthongs and triphthongs, semivowels, consonants that behave like vowels, as well as typologically less frequent vowels and processes, vowel phonology at the interfaces with acquisition, prosodic phonology, the lexicon, and morphosyntax, historical aspects of vowel phonology, vowels in loanword phonology and the psycholinguistics of vowel phonology. Each chapter provides a state-of-the-art description and discussion of the empirical phenomena and theoretical controversies regarding the respective phenomena analyzed.

Published: Sep 1, 2027