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Vowels in Wunambal, a Language of the North West Kimberley Region

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posted on 2021-12-15, 23:05 authored by D Loakes, T Carr, Lauren GawneLauren Gawne, G Wigglesworth
This paper presents an acoustic-phonetic analysis of vowel data from recordings of Wunambal, a Worrorran language of the Kimberley region in North West Australia. Wunambal has been analysed as a six vowel system with the contrasts /i e a o u i{stroke}/, with /i{stroke}/ only found in the Northern variety. Recordings from three senior (60+) male speakers of Northern Wunambal were used for this study. These recordings were originally made for documentation of lexical items. All vowel tokens were drawn from words in short carrier phrases, or words in isolation, and we compare vowels from both accented and unaccented contexts. We demonstrate a remarkably symmetrical vowel space, highlighting where the six vowels lie acoustically in relation to each other for the three speakers overall, and for each speaker individually. While all speakers in our corpus used the /i{stroke}/ vowel, the allophony observed suggests that it has a somewhat different phonemic status than other vowels. Accented and unaccented vowels are not significantly different for any speaker, and are similarly distributed in acoustic space.


The authors would also like to thank the Wunambal speakers who took part in the study, and Dr Hywel Stoakes at The University of Melbourne for invaluable assistance with the LMM statistical procedure. We also thank two anonymous reviewers for their feedback. This work was supported by AIATSIS (1996-2000); The Kimberley Language Research Centre (KLRC, 2005); and The Australian Research Council (ARC) under the Aboriginal Child Language Acquisition Project (ACLA2) ARC Discovery [grant number DP0877762] (2008-2012).


Publication Date



Australian Journal of Linguistics






29p. (p. 203-231)





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