A cross-linguistic study on the phonetics of dorsal obstruents

Dipl Geng, Bernd Pompino-Marschall, Daniel Recasens
This work investigates place of articulation in a cross-linguistic perspective: While most articulatory and in particular perceptual studies within phonetics are refined to the study of the three major -labial, alveolar and velar -places of articulation, the present dissertation aims at the addition of the palatal place of articulation in obstruent production and perception, with special focus on the Hungarian palatal stops. The self-limitation of phonetics to deal only with the three major
more » ... places of articulation in part has practical reasons: Phonemes like the palatal Hungarian obstruents [c] and [é] are not members of the sound systems of languages like English which can be regarded as the drosophila of experimental phonetics. The guiding idea of this research was that the incorporation of such additional phonemes into the planning and design of the experimental studies might, by increasing the category density, drive the categories into a "tug of war" for phonetic "resources"articulatory or perceptual spaces. Put differently, the architecture of the current dissertation is centered around ways in which the category distance defined in some phonetic -or potentially also phonological space -can be utilized to derive hypotheses which are best tested in a crosslinguistic design. Such designs can for example be helpful to test whether the phoneme inventory of a language leaves its traces in patterns of velar coarticulation. Concerning the so-called loops, 1 there have been numerous publications dealing with the influences of speech physiology, aerodynamics, general movement principles or articulatory biomechanics in a fairly systematic fashion, while no research efforts have been made so far to investigate possible influences of the system of linguistic contrasts of a given language. The same holds for the domain of speech perception: In speech perception, there are open questions which have not been answered yet or only been touched in a rudimentary fashion: How many stop place categories can be implemented on the basis of formant transitions alone? An arbitrary amount or is there an upper limit? In phonetic research on vowels similar questions are fairly common, in the domain of consonants, I am not aware of any empirical efforts.