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Phonetic explanations for the infrequency of voiced sibilant affricates across languages
1Centre for General Linguistics (ZAS), Berlin, Germany
2Long Island University, New York, USA
3Haskins Laboratories, New Haven, USA
Citation Information: . Volume 3, Issue 2, Pages 299–336, ISSN (Online) 1868-6354, ISSN (Print) 1868-6346, DOI: 10.1515/lp-2012-0016, November 2012
- Published Online:
This paper shows that several typologically unrelated languages share the tendency for voiced sibilant affricates to be infrequent or missing altogether. Phonological processes examined in the paper illustrate that (1) voiceless stops undergo affrication more readily than voiced ones, and (2) voiced affricates deaffricate more commonly than voiceless ones, thereby contributing to the asymmetry in frequency between voiced vs. voiceless affricates.
Phonetic properties of the sounds may explain these patterns. Affricates in general require complex control over supralaryngeal apertures, and they appear to have long durations in many languages. Long duration and complete oral closure at the beginning of affricates contribute to a buildup of intraoral pressure which impedes phonation. An aerodynamic experiment of obstruents, including affricates, was carried out for Polish and German, languages which differ in their realization of the stop voicing contrast (viz., voicing vs. aspiration). Voiced affricates in Polish had significantly longer voicing than in German; in medial position, they also had shorter durations and lower peak pressure values. We suggest that languages having voiced affricates in their phoneme inventory may tend to limit duration and intraoral pressure buildup in these sounds to allow vocal-fold vibration to continue.