The difference between the Dutch words 'buur' (neighbour) and 'boer' (farmer) is only a single a vowel (/u/ versus /y/). It is however an important difference if we want to understand what someone is saying. De Rue looked at how our brain distinguishes between vowels, particularly regarding the vowel features of lip roundness and tongue position.
De Rue conducted experiments, including EEG, to test the mental representations of the tongue position contrast and the lip roundness contrast in Dutch vowels. She found an asymmetry in both contrasts. Her work calls for future research into similar asymmetries in other languages.
Share this page