Analysing acoustic vowel dynamics in crowd-sourced data: Ongoing sound changes in Luxembourgish
2022-04-12, 09:30–10:00 (Europe/Vienna), Room 4

This paper addresses ongoing sound changes in Luxembourgish by using crowd-sourced data. As a predominantly spoken and mostly non-standardised language, Luxembourgish is characterised by a large amount of sociolinguistic variation, shaped by factors such as region, age, gender and educational level and others. In order to capture this variation on a large scale, a crowd-sourcing method has been developed using an innovative smartphone application (Entringer et al. in print, Gilles 2019). By using the app, participants made audio recordings by translating short sentences from either German or French to Luxembourgish. Depending on the recording item, between 1400 and 500 speakers, ranging from all age groups, provided audio recordings to this largest survey yet on Luxembourgish.

The present study will focus on the vowel system (for an overview see Thill 2017), by concentrating on the open monophthongs [æ], [aː] and [ɑ] as well as the corresponding diphthongs [æːɪ], [æːʊ], [ɑɪ] and [ɑʊ]. In order to gain a fine-grained view on the ongoing sound changes, several acoustic parameters will be investigated: Formant frequencies, F0, vowel duration, vector length, trajectory length, spectral rate of change (see Fox & Jacewicz 2009, Jacewicz, Fox & Salmons 2011). These acoustic parameters will be correlated with various social parameters, where the speaker’s age will play the major role (six age groups ranging from <25 to 65+). Furthermore, the impact of dialect region, gender and educational level will be assessed.

For the monophthongs, the lowering of [æ] and raising of [aː] will lead to a merger and a new phonological association of short and long /a/, while the former short [ɑ] is clearly associating with the back vowels and is moving towards [ɔ]. For the diphthongs, the over-length of the onset in [æːɪ], [æːʊ] is being dismantled, as it is phonologically largely irrelevant. In the discussion, the observed inter-generational sound changes of this apparent-time study will be interpreted according to Labov’s principles of chain-shifts (Labov (1994).


Gilles, Peter. 2019. Using crowd-sourced data to analyse the ongoing merger of [ɕ] and [ʃ] in Luxembourgish. In: Sasha Calhoun, Paola Escudero, Marija Tabain and Paul Warren (ed.), Proceedings of the 19th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, Melbourne, Australia 2019. 1590–1594. Melbourne.
Entringer, Nathalie, Peter Gilles, Sara Martin & Christoph Purschke. in print. Schnëssen. Surveying language dynamics in Luxembourgish with a mobile research app. Linguistic Vanguard.
Fox, Robert A. & Ewa Jacewicz. 2009. Cross-dialectal variation in formant dynamics of American English vowels. J. Acoust. Soc. Am., Vol. 126, No. 5.
Jacewicz, Ewa, Robert A. Fox & Joseph Salmons. 2011. Cross-generational vowel change in American English. Language Variation and Change, 23, 45-86.
Labov, William. 1994. Principles of linguistic change. Volume 1: Internal factors. Oxford.
Thill, Tina. 2017. Une étude acoustique et comparative sur les voyelles de luxembourgeois. PhD dissertation, University of Luxembourg/Université Sorbonne Nouvelle - Paris 3.