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Basque phonetics site

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All the Basque dialects, with the exception of Souletin and some of the bordering speeches, have five oral vowel phonemes,/i/, /e/, /a/, /o/, /u/, that constitute a system with three levels of opening (two close, two mid and one open vowel) and two parameters of localisation (two front and two back vowels; the open vowel is central). Souletin -and certain bordering speeches of Low Eastern Navarrese- also have a sixth vowel [y], front, close, and labialized, written normally as <ü>; its phonemic character is questionable.Souletin -and also Roncalese until its recent extinction- also have nasal vowels: [ ĩ ], [ ỹ ], [ ẽ ], [ ã ], [ ũ ]; leftovers from a double vowel system both oral and nasal, which resulted from an elision of an old intervocalic nasal consonant that also existed in the remaining dialects and disappeared in different ages (the last one to disappear was the one of Biscayan between the XVI and the XVIIth century). Nowadays, the phonemic character of all these specific vowels of Souletin is doubtful and a revision is recommended. On the other hand, lengthened vowels can appear, originated by the elision of an intervocalic consonant (basically /ɦ/ and /ɾ/).

Generally speaking, a great instability has always existed in the vowel quality which has motivated the appearance of frequent changes (assimilation, dissimilation and metathesis), favoured by a certain phonetic context (vibrants, nasals, palatals), and with a diatopic distribution.
 
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