Stricture and Nasal Place Assimilation


Theories of feature organization typically treat stricture features like [continuant], [consonantal] and [approximant] as independent of place of articulation features. The best argument for this view centers on [continuant] and facts of nasal place assimilation — in particular, instances of nasal place assimilation to fricatives, where the nasal appears to remain a stop. However, a closer look at nasal place assimilation provides a strong argument against this standard view: across languages, place assimilation to fricatives is highly disfavored in comparison to assimilation to stops, and occurring nasal-fricative clusters behave like affricates. I show how a theory in which [continuant] is place-dependent can explain these facts, exploiting the notion of structure preservation. The treatment of stricture proposed brings feature geometry more in line with models based on facts of phonetics and vocal tract anatomy, e.g., the gestural model of Browman and Goldstein.


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