This study aims to characterize the nature of the dynamic spectral change in vowels in three distinct regional varieties of American English spoken in the Western North Carolina, in Central Ohio, and in Southern Wisconsin. The vowels /ɪ, ε, e, æ, aɪ/ were produced by 48 women for a total of 1920 utterances and were contained in words of the structure /bVts/ and /bVdz/ in sentences which elicited nonemphatic and emphatic vowels. Measurements made at the vowel target (i.e., the central 60% of the vowel) produced a set of acoustic parameters which included position and movement in the F1 by F2 space, vowel duration, amount of spectral change [measured as vector length (VL) and trajectory length (TL)], and spectral rate of change. Results revealed expected variation in formant dynamics as a function of phonetic factors (vowel emphasis and consonantal context). However, for each vowel and for each measure employed, dialect was a strong source of variation in vowel-inherent spectral change. In general, the dialect-specific nature and amount of spectral change can be characterized quite effectively by position and movement in the F1 by F2 space, vowel duration, TL (but not VL which underestimates formant movement), and spectral rate of change.

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