Effects of laryngeal features on vowel duration: implications for Winter’s Law

  • Chelsea Sanker


Vowels are longer before voiced than voiceless obstruents in many languages. Work on how this effect interacts with aspiration has been limited. This study presents data from Hindi and Telugu on vowel duration and other acoustic characteristics as influenced by following consonants. Hindi vowels were significantly longer before voiced stops than voiceless stops, with no significant effect of aspiration. Telugu vowels were only slightly longer before voiced than voiceless stops; more crucially, they were shorter before aspirated stops than unaspirated stops. The Telugu results provide a parallel demonstrating the phonetic plausibility of the sound change proposed in Winter’s Law, with vowel lengthening before voiced unaspirated stops but not before voiced aspirated stops in Proto-Balto-Slavic. While the exact processes causing the voicing and aspiration effects remain unclear, this data contributes to evaluating the phenomenon. Phonetic differences between in Hindi and Telugu may also suggest characteristics of how the Proto-Balto-Slavic stop contrasts were realized.