Aspiration of Sonorant Consonants

Aspiration of Sonorant Consonants 

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Abstract

The current paper presents an assessment of Iverson and Salmons’ work on the effect of laryngeal representation and aspiration in Germanic languages such as English as well as the issue of sonorant devoicing. Iverson and Salmons attempt to distinguish the nonnasal stops in the Germanic and Romance languages and the authors present explanations on the reason why /p/ is not aspirated when it occurs in the English /sp/. 

Aspiration of Sonorant Consonants

What is the main claim about the nonnasal stop inventory of English and other Germanic languages, in contrast to the stop inventory of romance and other languages?

Iverson and Salmons claim that the nonnasal stop inventory of the derivatives and parallels of the Germanic languages such as English the two-way laryngeal contrasts in these languages are encoded as non-spread versus spread or lenis versus fortis distinction rather than voiced versus voiceless. In contrast, the nonnasal stops in the romance languages such as Spanish are distinguished through feature instead of spread glottis, and this results in the voicing of the nonnasal stops even during the end phase. Another distinction between the Germanic and Romance languages is that the former contains aspirated voiceless stops and weakly voiced stops while the latter consist of unaspirated voiceless stops and strongly voiced stops. 

What is I&S’s explanation of aspiration and voicing in terms of physiology and physics?

Iverson and Salmons explain voicing and aspiration result from the aerodynamic and automatic changes in the configuration of the spread glottis that occurs within the larynx. 

What is their evidence?

The presented evidence is that the release of oral closure is followed by vocal contraction to produce voice in specific vowels and some time is required during this process to achieve the required state for phonation hence the aspiration. 

How is devoicing of sonorant consonants related to [spread glottis] and aspiration?

The devoicing of the sonorant consonants relates with aspiration and [spread glottis] due to the sharing that occurs between stops and fricatives as well as the glottal movement during the voicing of /sp/ and /p/. 

Is aspiration from [spread glottis] an all-or-nothing phenomenon?

Iverson & Salmons (1995) suggest that the aspiration from [spread glottis] cannot be considered an all-or-nothing phenomenon because languages such as Korean have both the lightly and heavily aspirated voiceless stops. The variations in the degree of glottal width in such languages account for the different aspirations reported, and this demonstrate that the laryngeal muscles give a varied response to stimuli. 

If /p/ has [spread glottis], why isn’t English /p/ aspirated when #s__?

The English /p/ is not aspirated when #s_ although it has [spread glottis] due to the sharing of the [spread glottis] that occurs between the stops and fricative (Iverson & Simm). The glottal movement in /p/ in #s_ begins during /s/ and starts closing simultaneously as the closure for /p/ and this implies that /p/ is thus released when the glottis has become narrow to the point where the next vowel’s voicing begins immediately. Consequently, this results in an unaspirated /p/ that follows /s/. The most critical factors that cause /p/ not to be aspirated is in the concurrent glottal movement and the voicelessness of /s/. 

Why do sonorant consonants devoice when #[-continuant, -nasal, -voice] __, as in the word play, but not when #s [-continuant, -nasal, -voice]__, as in the word splay?

The reason for the consonant devoicing that occurs when # [-continuation, -nasal, -voice] but not when #s [-continuation, -nasal, -voice] can be explained phonologically through Obligatory Contour Principle that forcefully reduces the adjacent identical specifications into a shared specification. According to Iverson & Salmons (1995, 373), the morpheme-internal sequences that consist of /s/ that is followed by /p/ contain at least one [spread glottis] instance per the OCP. As such, the voicelessness in #s [-continuation, -nasal, -voice] occurs in the word splay because the stops are not aspirated after /s/ in initial clusters Iverson & Salmons (1995, 373). 

I&S argue that English stress is related to foot structure. According to them, where are stops aspirated?

According to Iverson & Salmons (1995), the stops in the English stress are aspirated at the beginning of stressed syllables or words. Iverson and Salmons observe that the aspiration of the voiceless stops in the English language occurs at the foot-initial position, but this does not happen in other locations. 

Early in the course, we transcribed the word stuck as [stak]. Then we recorded the word in Praat, lopped off the [s], played the rest of the word and, surprisingly, heard what seemed to be [dAk] instead of expected [tAk]. In light of the I&S article, explain. 

The main reason for this phenomenon is explained in Iverson and Salmons’ article as resulting from the sharing of a single specification between the fricative and stop. The widening glottal movement for /p/ begins during /s/ in the /sp/ and the closure of the glottis occurs just after the release of /p/. The narrowing causes the voicing of the next vowel starts immediately, and this results in the unaspirated /p/ that follows the /s/ note. The most critical factor considered in the unaspiration is the simultaneous compatibility of the two voicings because the glottal opening for /p/ occurs concurrently with the articulation of /s/. The height of the glottal opening is associated with the /s/ portion in the /sp/ cluster. 

Response to the Authors’ Claims

The authors’ claims on the similarities in the Germanic languages on the nonnasal stops and aspirated words is convincing due to the number of shared words and the stressing that is placed on the same. The authors’ claims that the Romance languages contain strongly voiced stops is also convincing due to presented phonetic nature of such expressions.

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