The relationship between speech segment duration and vowel centralization in a group of older speakers

Annalise R. Fletcher, Megan J. McAuliffe, Kaitlin L. Lansford, Julie Liss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


This study examined the relationship between average vowel duration and spectral vowel quality across a group of 149 New Zealand English speakers aged 65 to 90 yr. The primary intent was to determine whether participants who had a natural tendency to speak slowly would also produce more spectrally distinct vowel segments. As a secondary aim, this study investigated whether advancing age exhibited a measurable effect on vowel quality and vowel durations within the group. In examining vowel quality, both flexible and static formant extraction points were compared. Two formant measurements, from selected [?:], [i:], and [o:] vowels, were extracted from a standard passage and used to calculate two measurements of vowel space area (VSA) for each speaker. Average vowel duration was calculated from segments across the passage. The study found a statistically significant relationship between speakers' average vowel durations and VSA measurements indicating that, on average, speakers with slower speech rates produced more acoustically distinct speech segments. As expected, increases in average vowel duration were found with advancing age. However, speakers' formant values remained unchanged. It is suggested that the use of a habitually slower speaking rate may assist speakers in maintaining acoustically distinct vowels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2132-2139
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of the Acoustical Society of America
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Acoustics and Ultrasonics
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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