Manusya, Journal of Humanities

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This paper presents the variation in the two short high vowels /i/ and /u/ occurring in live syllables ending with final nasal consonants (CVN) in two Southwestern Tai (SWT) dialects: Lue and Khün, respectively spoken in the villages of Nong Bua and Nong Muang in Pa Kha Subdistrict, Tha Wang Pha District, in Nan Province. The data were collected from Lue and Khün language resource persons (LRPs) in three age groups, an elderly group (60 years old and above), a middle-aged group (35-50 years old), and a young group (15-25 years old), with five LRPs in each age group. The data analyzed for this paper come from a total of 30 LRPs (5 LRPs × 3 age groups × 2 SWT dialects). The findings show that the short high front unrounded vowel /i/ of both Lue and Khün has two variants: [i] and [e]. Similarly, the short high back rounded vowel /u/ of Lue has two variants, [u] and [o]; however, in Khün it has four variants, [u] and [o] together with their long counterparts, [uː] and [oː]. The young LRPs of both Lue and Khün use the variants [e] and [o] with higher frequency than the middle-aged or elderly groups. The original vowels [i] and [u] are used with higher frequency by the elderly group than the other two groups in both Lue and Khün. Comparison of the high vowel variation in Lue with that in Khün shows that the variants [e] and [o] are used with noticeably higher frequency in Khün than in Lue. It may be hypothesized that in Khün, the two high vowels [i] and [u] occurring in CVN syllables may change to [e] and [o] in the near future. Since the two original vowels [i] and [u] are still frequently used in Lue, it may take a longer time for these two vowels to change in this dialect. Because of the fact that Lue and Khün people are bilingual/multilingual and can speak not only their own mother tongues, but also Kam Mueang and Standard Thai, it can be said that language contact plays an important role in motivating the variation of the two high vowels in both Lue and Khün.

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