Vowel contrasts may be reduced or neutralized before coda laterals in English [Bernard (1985). The Cultivated Australian: Festschrift in Honour of Arthur Delbridge, pp. 319–332; Labov, Ash, and Boberg (2008). The Atlas of North American English, Phonetics and Sound Change (Gruyter Mouton, Berlin); Palethorpe and Cox (2003). International Seminar on Speech Production (Macquaire University, Sydney, Australia)], but the acoustic characteristics of vowel-lateral interaction in Australian English (AusE) rimes have not been systematically examined. Spectral and temporal properties of 16 pre-lateral and 16 pre-obstruent vowels produced by 29 speakers of AusE were compared. Acoustic vowel similarity in both environments was captured using random forest classification and hierarchical cluster analysis of the first three DCT coefficients of F1, F2, and F3, and duration values. Vowels preceding /l/ codas showed overall increased confusability compared to vowels preceding /d/ codas. In particular, reduced spectral contrast was found for the rime pairs /iːl-ɪl/ (feel-fill), /ʉːl-ʊl/ (fool-full), /əʉl-ɔl/ (dole-doll), and /æɔl-æl/ (howl-Hal). Potential articulatory explanations and implications for sound change are discussed.

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