Slovenian: Diphthongs ej and ov

2wrbk

Member
Polski
Hello. The Handbook of the IPA seems to state that before a non-prevocalic /j/ the mid front vowels /ɛ/ (the open "e") and /e/ (the closed "e") do not contrast and collapse to an intermediate form [e̞]. Does that mean that stressed syllables of glej and Andrej are both pronounced with [e̞i̯]? Wiktionary says that Andrej is pronounced /anˈdrɛːj/ (which is equivalent to /anˈdrɛj/, because multiple scholars have proven vowel length to be non-phonemic in contemporary Standard Slovene).

Also, what about the mid back /ɔ/ (the open "o") and /o/ (the closed "o") before the vocalized /v/ ([u̯])? The Handbook also seem to state that both of them collapse to an intermediate vowel [o̞]. Does that mean that rovka (which Slovenski Pravopis considers to contain /ɔ/) and pol (which SP considers to contain /o/ and a vocalized [u̯] when it means "half") are actually pronounced with the same vowel [o̞]?

In other words, do /ɛ/ and /e/ undergo phonemic neutralization before non-prevocalic /j/ and do /ɔ/ and /o/ undergo phonemic neutralization before the vocalized [u̯]? If so, how widespread is this in Standard Slovene? I'm asking about the actual pronunciation that is acceptable and prestigious in the whole country.

EDIT: I meant "ej" and "ov" / "ol" (when the latter is pronounced the same as "ov"), not "ei" and "ou". I can't change that now, but I still feel the need to clarify it.

I've just found my answer: yes, they are neutralized in that position. Not only that, they also undergo neutralization when /j/ and /v/ are prevocalic, as in ideja "idea" and bogovi "gods". The source for this is Greenberg's "Short Reference Grammar of Standard Slovene", page 24. He argues that the outcome of this neutralization are open-mid vowels, so maybe that's how they're perceived by the natives.

But does that neutralization also apply to /ɔ/ and /o/ that is followed by a vocalized /l/ ([u̯])? I guess it is (otherwise, I guess, it would be mentioned in the Handbook of the IPA which I'd expect to get this kind of stuff right). What about inflected forms? Are both /ɔl/ and /ol/ possible in the inflected forms of a word which has the [ɔu̯ ~ ou̯] diphthong spelled ol? Pardon me for asking so many questions, I just don't know very much about the language.
 
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  • Panceltic

    Senior Member
    Slovenščina
    I think what you describe used to be true in the past. Maybe before WWII, but nowadays the only distinction is /ɛ/ vs /e/ and /ɔ/ vs /o/. In unstressed positions, you always have /ɛ/ and /ɔ/, and diphthongs are always /ɛj/ and /ɔu̯/.

    Now, I am not versed enough in phonology, but Wikipedia mentions:

    In fact, however, the unstressed mid vowels have two realizations:

    • Lowered close-mid (between close-mid and true-mid) [e̞, o̞] before a stressed syllable (as in velikan 'giant' and oglas 'advertisement').
    • Raised open-mid (between true-mid and open-mid) [ɛ̝, ɔ̝] after a stressed syllable (as in medved 'bear' and potok 'stream').
    To me as a native speaker, these all sound absolutely the same, and are also the same as the stressed /ɛ/ and /ɔ/.
     

    2wrbk

    Member
    Polski
    Thanks.

    I didn't say that there's a distinction between /ɛ/ vs /e/ before /j/ and /ɔ/ vs /o/ before the non-syllabic [u̯], if that's what you mean. I'm aware that there's not. What I transcribed as [e̞i̯] and [o̞u̯] (per the Handbook of the IPA) can just as plausibly be written [ɛ̝i̯] (or [ɛ̝j]) and [ɔ̝u̯]. These denote practically the same sounds, but using the characters for the open-mid sounds looks like a superior transcription to me as the neutralization occurs before coda /j/ and /v/ as well as before intervocalic /j/ and /v/, in which the vowels seem to be (phonetically) properly open-mid, not between open-mid and close-mid.

    These unstressed realizations you mention seem to be very similar to each other. You're not supposed to hear this distinction unless you have a very good ear for sounds. Also, it's possible that it's outdated. The Handbook says that the vast majority of unstressed mid vowels are open-mid in Slovenian, but unstressed close-mids occur in a handful of grammatical words such as že (as in že ve "already knows") and bo (as in bo šlo "will go").

    Also, are there any words with the [ɔu̯] diphthong spelled ol that in declension/conjugation/whatever (so when [u̯] becomes the lateral [l] again) can get the close-mid /o/ instead of the open-mid /ɔ/? Or is that impossible and only /ɔ/ can appear also in those cases?
     
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    Panceltic

    Senior Member
    Slovenščina
    I see, thank for clarifying. I wanted to mention bo when writing the reply, but it escaped my mind in the end :)

    Regarding your last question, I can think of words such as fižol /fiˈʒɔu̯/, gen. fižola /fiˈʒola/ ("bean(s)"), prestol /ˈprɛstɔl/, gen. prestola /prɛˈstola/ ("throne") - for some reason, the -l is pronounced as such in this word (but cf. stol /ˈstɔu̯/, gen. stola /ˈstɔla/ ("chair")). It might be a later Slavic borrowing from the time of "purifying" the language, there is also stolp /ˈstɔlp/ ("tower") from this period.
     

    2wrbk

    Member
    Polski
    I see. So the mid back vowels are neutralized before /v/ but not /l/. That makes sense, thanks.
     
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