Impact of prosodic structure and information density on vowel space size

Author(s): Erika Schulz, Yoon Mi Oh, Zofia Malisz, Bistra Andreeva and Bernd Möbius


We investigated the influence of prosodic structure and information density on vowel space size. Vowels were measured in five languages from the BonnTempo corpus, French, German, Finnish, Czech, and Polish, each with three female and three male speakers. Speakers read the text at normal, slow, and fast speech rate. The Euclidean distance between vowel space midpoint and formant values for each speaker was used as a measure for vowel distinctiveness. The prosodic model consisted of prominence and boundary. Information density was calculated for each language using the surprisal of the bigram Xn|Xn-1. Results of the study showed that on average there is a positive relationship between vowel space expansion and information density. Detailed analysis revealed that this relationship did not hold for Finnish, and was only weak for Polish. When vowel distinctiveness was modeled as a function of prosodic factors and information density in linear mixed effects model (LMM), only prosodic factors were significant in explaining variance in vowel space expansion. All prosodic factors, but word boundary, showed significant positive results in LMM. Vowels were more distinct in stressed syllables, before a prosodic boundary and at normal and slow speech rate compared to fast speech.


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