In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Vowel Harmony

  • Introduction
  • Introductory Works
  • Edited Collections
  • Typological Studies or Sources with Analyses of Multiple Languages
  • Detailed Case Studies
  • Root-Control and Dominant Systems
  • Harmonic Domain
  • Restricted Vowel Harmony
  • Metaphony
  • Umlaut
  • Phonetic Basis
  • Stress
  • Diachronic Change
  • Learnability and Computational Modeling
  • Psychological Reality

Linguistics Vowel Harmony
Harry van der Hulst
  • LAST REVIEWED: 13 December 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 October 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199772810-0087


We speak of vowel harmony when there is a general condition that demands that all vowels within a certain domain, usually the word, must agree in one or more than one phonological property. This condition is manifested in the facts that vowels within morphemes display agreement and that, when morphemes are combined into complex words, all vowels of these various morphemes will agree. In the most typical case, the vowels of affixes vary in the relevant phonological property or properties depending on the base with which they are combined. This means that the bases (roots, stems) are invariant and control the harmony. Vowel harmony can be understood as an unbounded form of phonological assimilation or agreement, and as such it forms a subclass of a broader phenomenon that also includes unbounded harmony among consonants or among consonants and vowels as well as forms of assimilation that are limited to adjacent segments. This bibliography only covers the subclass of vowel harmony.

Introductory Works

All major linguistics encyclopedias also contain entries about vowel harmony. Useful longer general introductions include Anderson 1980, van der Hulst and van de Weijer 1995, Archangeli and Pulleyblank 2007, Krämer 2003, Gafos and Dye 2011, and Rose and Walker 2011. All offer specific discussion of one the central issues in vowel harmony—the behavior and analysis of so-called neutral vowels (see Neutral Vowels Transparency, Opacity and Locality)—as well as of most other issues for which we give some more specific references in separate sections.

  • Anderson, Stephen R. 1980. Problems and perspectives in the description of vowel harmony. In Issues in vowel harmony. Edited by Robert M. Vago, 1–48. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

    A thoughtful discussion of segmental and autosegmental approaches to vowel harmony.

  • Archangeli, Diana B., and Douglas Pulleyblank. 2007. Harmony. In The Cambridge handbook of phonology. Edited by Paul deLacy, 353–378. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511486371.016

    A general overview of harmony processes (including consonant harmony) with specific attention to the formal properties of rules and conditions on triggers and targets.

  • Gafos, Adamantios I., and Amanda Dye. 2011. Vowel harmony: Transparent and opaque vowels. In The Blackwell companion to phonology. Vol. 4. Edited by Marc van Oostendorp, Colin J. Ewen, Elizabeth Hume, and Keren Rice, 2164–2189. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.

    A general overview of vowel harmony processes with specific reference to the phonetic basis of this process.

  • Krämer, Martin. 2003. Vowel harmony and correspondence theory. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

    DOI: 10.1515/9783110197310

    Chapter 1 of this work contains a general overview of vowel harmony processes and relevant issues.

  • Rose, Sharon, and Rachel Walker. 2011. Harmony systems. In Handbook of phonological theory. 2d ed. Edited by John Goldmsith, Alan Yu, and Jason Riggle, 240–290. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.

    A very detailed review of vowel and consonant harmony processes with many examples and illustrations of different approaches.

  • van der Hulst, Harry, and Jeroen van de Weijer. 1995. Vowel harmony. In The handbook of phonological theory. Edited by John A. Goldsmith, 495–534. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.

    A general overview of vowel harmony processes and various formalisms.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.