Variation in Norm
9 Summary of the German vowel systems and mixed systems
Two competing vowel systems have been posited for modern German, both involving five phonologically relevant vowel heights. The conservative system includes a phoneme /ɛː/, which quantitatively contrasts with the short phoneme /ɛ/. It also includes two a-phonemes of identical quality, namely /aː/ and /a/. The qual itative identity of these two low segments imparts a triangular shape to the overall inventory of the system, and along with that of the phonemes /ɛː/ and /ɛ/ implies that quantity is a primary phonological parameter in this accent. The presence of the long phoneme /ɛː/ in the vowel space detracts from the structural symmetry of the system in that this isolated sound has no rounded long front counterpart, no corresponding long back vowel of equal height, and in that it shares its short congener with that of the phoneme /eː/. Furthermore, the conservative vowel system appears to be associated with con straints placed on two rule applications that involve the short vowels [ə] and [ɐ]. Speakers whose pronunciation is based on this system tend to show a restricted range of presonorant schwa deletion, and – more crucially – they generally show a restricted scope of rvocalization in syllable rhymes, with both kinds of con straints being governed by phonological regularities, but also by stylistic condi tions. Due to the constraints on r-vocalization, their accent qualifies as a partially rhotic accent: its speakers clearly favor the realization [ɐ̯ ] of the phoneme /ʁ/ after long vowels (e.g. in the words...
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