Manusya, Journal of Humanities

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This paper aims to analyze and compare the acoustic characteristics of the vowels and tones in the Phrae Pwo Karen spoken by three generations. The data was collected at Khangchai Village in Wang Chin District, Phrae Province. A wordlist of Pwo Karen vowels and tones was recorded directly on to computer using Adobe Audition version 2. Fifteen female informants were divided into three groups: those over 60 years old, those 35-50 years old and those under 25 years old. The total number of test tokens was 405 for vowel analysis, and 810 for tone analysis. The fundamental frequencies and formant frequencies were measured using Praat version 5.1.43. The results show that there are nine monophthongs in Phrae Pwo Karen, namely /i, e, ɛ, ɨ, ə, a, u, o, ɔ/. Considering the vowel spaces, it is noticeable in the over-60 group that front vowels /i, e, ɛ/ occur very close to each other, i.e., with only a little difference in the tongue height position (F1). Whereas the back vowels /u, o/ occur close to each other, the vowel /ɔ/ appears close to the vowel /a/. In the 35-50 group and the under-25 group, the vowel /ɛ/ moves downward and the vowel /ɔ/ moves upward. There are 4 tones, namely, the high tone, mid tone, low tone and falling tone. In the over-60 group, the high tone begins at a high pitch and stays level until the end. The mid tone starts at a mid pitch and stays level until the end. The low tone starts at a mid pitch and falls to a low pitch. The falling tone begins at a high pitch and then rises slightly before sharply falling to a low pitch. For the 35-50 group, the acoustic characteristics of the 4 tones are similar to those of the older group; however, the high tone behaves differently. The onset of the high tone is lower and rises slightly until the end. The change of the high tone is clearer in the under-25 group. It starts from a mid pitch and rises sharply to a high pitch. In conclusion, the acoustic characteristics of the vowels and tones as spoken by three generations suggest that Phrae Pwo Karen is changing because of the variation among the three groups. The variation and change seems to be caused by language contact with Tai Yuan and Standard Thai.

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