The phonetics and phonology of Dutch mid vowels before /l/

Bert Botma, Koen Sebregts 1  and Dick Smakman 2
  • 1 Department of Modern Languages, Utrecht University
  • 2 Department of English Language and Culture, LUCL, Leiden University


This paper addresses the claim that Dutch /l/ triggers laxing of preceding tense mid vowels (/e ø o/), and that this leads to a phonetic length contrast between tense and lax vowels, e.g., tense speel [spɪːɫ] ‘play’ vs. lax spil [spɪɫ] ‘pivot’. The production experiment reported in this paper shows that this claim is incorrect. We find instead that /l/ triggers retraction of both tense and lax mid vowels, which leads neither to complete neutralization of quality nor to complete neutralization of length.

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Laboratory phonology represents the scientific study of the elements of spoken and signed language and their organization, grammatical function and role in speech communication. The Laboratory Phonology journal - the official journal of the LabPhon Association - publishes research on phonology from a range of disciplinary perspectives including linguistics, psychology, speech and hearing science, computer science and other related fields.