A change in the openness of two vowel phoneme pairs in eastern Icelandic

An acoustic analysis of /ɶ:/ vs. /ʏ:/, and /ɛ:/ vs. /ɪ:/

  • Guðlaug Hilmarsdóttir


The number of Icelanders lacking the distinction between /ɛ:/ and /ɪ:/, and between /ɶ:/ and /ʏ:/ is decreasing. Since Guðfinnsson’s study (1964), and up to Árnason and Þráinsson’s study (Árnason and Pind 2005), speakers found in the capital region, and in eastern Iceland, are maintaining the distinction between the rounded, and between the unrounded vowel phonemes to a greater degree. This study serves to test the proposition from the previous researches. Overall results show that the participants in eastern Iceland have a mixed pronunciation, i.e. the participants partly lack the distinction between /ɛ:/ and /ɪ:/, and between /ɶ:/ and /ʏ:/, and partly maintain it. The mergers result in sounds close to /e:/ and /ø:/ respectively. This was also the case with the speakers from the capital region. Overall, the lack of distinction was less apparent amongst the young speakers from the East than in the capital region.