An Ultrasound Study of Irish Palatalization and Velarization

Abstract

We present the first ultrasound analysis of the secondary palatalization contrast in Irish, analyzing data from five speakers from the Connemara dialect group. Word-initial /pʲ(bʲ),pˠ(bˠ),tʲ,tˠ,kʲ,kˠ,fʲ,fˠ,sʲ,sˠ,xʲ,xˠ/ are analyzed in the context of /iː,uː/. We find, first, that tongue body position robustly distinguishes palatalized from velarized consonants, across place of articulation, manner, and vowel place contexts, with palatalized consonants having fronter and/or higher tongue body realizations than their velarized counterparts. This conclusion holds equally for labial consonants, contrary to some previous descriptive claims. Second, the nature and degree of palatalization and velarization depend in systematic ways on consonant place and manner. In coronal consonants, for example, velarization is weaker or absent. Third, the Irish consonants examined resist coarticulation in backness with a following vowel. In all of these respects Irish palatalization is remarkably similar to that of Russian. Our results also support an independent role for pharyngeal cavity expansion/retraction in the production of the palatalization contrast. Finally, we discuss preliminary findings on the dynamics of the secondary articulation gestures. Our use of principal component analysis (PCA) in reaching these findings is also of interest, since PCA has not been employed a great deal in analyses of tongue body movement.

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