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Retraction in St’át’imcets : an ultrasonic investigation Namdaran, Nahal

Abstract

Retracted consonants and their effects on surrounding vowels have been widely investigated in Interior Salish languages (Bessell 1992, 1998ab; Remnant 1990; Shahin 1997, 2002; van Eijk 1987, 1997; McDowell 2004; inter alia). It has been claimed that retracted consonants (uvulars, pharyngeals, sometimes laryngeals, and a subset of coronal consonants postulated to be articulated with a secondary retracted tongue root position) often trigger retraction in neighbouring vowels. However, with the exception of McDowell (2004), previous studies in Salish have examined vowel retraction effects from the perspective of acoustic and/or phonological evidence, leaving unanswered the question of how retraction is achieved articulatorily. The current study uses ultrasound imaging of the tongue in conjunction with the acoustic signal to examine the articulations involved in St’át’imcets retraction. This investigation attempts to answer the following questions: (i) what are the physiological mechanisms involved in the production of St’át’imcets retracted consonants-both inherently retracted (q, qw, q’, q’w, x̌, x̌w, [pharyngeal], [pharyngeal]w, [pharyngeal]’, [pharyngeal]’w,) and secondarily retracted (c̲, c̲’, s̲, l̲, l̲’, and Lower dialect z, z’), and; (ii) what are the coarticulatory effects of St’át’imcets retracted consonants on adjacent vowels? Articulatory results indicate that all St’át’imcets retracted consonants are produced with significant tongue root retraction towards the lower pharyngeal wall. Uvular consonant articulation also involves an upper pharyngeal/posterior-uvular constriction made by the tongue dorsum; for retracted coronal consonants, the participation of a retracted and raised tongue dorsum varies across speakers. Concerning St’át’imcets vowel retraction effects, articulatory and acoustic results indicate that vowels /i/ and /u/ undergo retraction when adjacent to St’át’imcets retracted consonants, with surface retracted qualities differing between uvular consonant contexts and retracted coronal consonant contexts. Furthermore, St’át’imcets retracted consonants generally exhibit symmetrical coarticulatory effects on adjacent vowels. Apart from the much-needed articulatory description of St’át’imcets retracted consonants and vowel retraction effects, some issues emerge regarding the phonological representation of St’át’imcets retraction. For example, this study evaluates the extent to which phonetic variation is encoded in the phonological structure. The examined St’át’imcets retracted consonant articulation and coarticulatory patterns provide information useful in the study of retraction processes present in other languages (e.g. Arabic).

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