The so-called “fricative” and “apical” vowels, which occur throughout the Chinese languages, are known to have constriction locations more anterior than those of high front vowels, and are canonically produced with some fricative noise. However, recent descriptions have disagreed on how much fricative noise is actually involved in the production of these vowels, with studies of Standard Chinese in particular claiming that that language’s apical vowels have no associated frication.
In this talk, we raise the possibility that fricative noise in these vowels has language-specific intensity targets. We examine acoustic data from two dialects of Chinese: Jixi Hui, a Huizhou dialect with “apical” vowels, Suzhounese, a Wu dialect with both “fricative” and “apical” vowels. After a general acoustic description, we calculate indices of fricative noise intensity for the segments at issue and compare among the high front, fricative, and apical vowels. Whether or not substantial differences in frication noise intensity are found among vowel types – or between languages – will shed light on how these vowels are cued and represented in the various languages where they occur.