The effect of phonological neighborhood density on vowel articulation

Benjamin Munson, Nancy Pearl Solomon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

186 Scopus citations


Recent literature suggests that phonological neighborhood density and word frequency can affect speech production, in addition to the well-documented effects that they have on speech perception. This article describes 2 experiments that examined how phonological neighborhood density influences the durations and formant frequencies of adults' productions of vowels in real words. In Experiment 1, 10 normal speakers produced words that covaried in phonological neighborhood density and word frequency. Infrequent words with many phonological neighbors were produced with shorter durations and more expanded vowel spaces than frequent words with few phonological neighbors. Results of this experiment confirmed that this effect was not related to the duration of the vowels constituting the high- and low-density words. In Experiment 2, 15 adults produced words that varied in both word frequency and neighborhood density. Neighborhood density affected vowel articulation in both high- and low-frequency words. Moreover, frequent words were produced with more contracted vowel spaces than infrequent words. There was no interaction between these factors, and the vowel duration did not vary as a function of neighborhood density. Taken together, the results suggest that neighborhood density affects vowel production independent of word frequency and vowel duration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1048-1058
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2004


  • Acoustic measurements
  • Adults
  • Phonological neighborhood density
  • Vowels
  • Word frequency


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