Formant Characteristics of the Southern Gĩkũyũ Dialect Vowels
Kinyanjui, Evans Konye
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The current study is an acoustic analysis of vowels of southern Gĩkũyũ dialect. The study sought to establish the formant values of vowels which were plotted on the acoustic vowel space. The acoustic vowel space was compared with the vowel space determined by perceptual based studies of Gĩkũyũ vowels. In doing so, this study described the vowel segments of southern Gĩkũyũ dialect based on the formant values. In addition, it accounted for the distribution of Gĩkũyũ vowels within the vowel space and described how Gĩkũyũ acoustic vowel space compared with the auditory perception based vowel space. The study used the Source Filter Theory to account for the production of the vowels and the Dispersion Theory to describe the distribution of vowel sounds in the acoustic vowel space. 21 Gĩkũyũ male speakers were audio recorded as they read word tokens with vowel sounds. The vowel sounds were in carrier consonant-vowel structure CVCV in the environment between voiceless sounds /h/ and /t, k/. These sound tokens were analysed using Praat software to extract the formant values of the vowel tokens. The Statistical Package for Social Sciences (SPSS) was used for quantitative data analysis. The findings showed that these Gĩkũyũ vowels maintained a minimal distance to make them distinctively and perceptually contrastive. In addition, among the back vowels, the vowel sound /u/ was the most back, the vowel /o/ was slightly advanced to the centre. The lack of the central vowels in the acoustic space, as observed, was because of the need for the vowel sounds to be maximally and perceptually contrastive.