Semivowel - Wikipedia
Semivowel
This article contains phonetic transcriptions in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA. For the distinction between [ ], / / and ⟨ ⟩, see IPA § Brackets and transcription delimiters.
In phonetics and phonology, a semivowel or glide is a sound that is phonetically similar to a vowel sound but functions as the syllable boundary, rather than as the nucleus of a syllable.[1] Examples of semivowels in English are the consonants y and w, in yes and west, respectively. Written /j w/ in IPA, y and w are near to the vowels ee and oo in seen and moon, written / / in IPA. The term glide may alternatively refer to any type of transitional sound, not necessarily a semivowel.[2]
Classification
Semivowels form a subclass of approximants.[3][4] Although "semivowel" and "approximant" are sometimes treated as synonymous,[5] most authors use the term "semivowel" for a more restricted set; there is no universally agreed-upon definition, and the exact details may vary from author to author. For example, Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996) do not consider the labiodental approximant [ʋ] to be a semivowel,[6] while Martínez Celdrán (2004) proposes that it should be considered one.[7]
In the International Phonetic Alphabet, the diacritic attached to non-syllabic vowel letters is an inverted breve placed below the symbol representing the vowel: U+032F  ̯  COMBINING INVERTED BREVE BELOW. When there is no room for the tack under a symbol, it may be written above, using U+0311  ̑  COMBINING INVERTED BREVE. Before 1989, non-syllabicity was represented by U+0306  ̆  COMBINING BREVE, which now stands for extra-shortness.
Additionally, there are dedicated symbols for four semivowels that correspond to the four close cardinal vowel sounds:[4]
Semivowel (non-syllabic)Vowel (syllabic)
[j] (palatal approximant)[i] (close front unrounded vowel)
[ɥ] (labio-palatal approximant)[y] (close front rounded vowel)
[ɰ] (velar approximant)[ɯ] (close back unrounded vowel)
[w] (labiovelar approximant)[u] (close back rounded vowel)
The pharyngeal approximant [ʕ̞] is also equivalent to the semivowel articulation of the open back unrounded vowel [ɑ].[6]
In addition, some authors[6][7] consider the rhotic approximants [ɹ], [ɻ] to be semivowels corresponding to R-colored vowels such as [ɚ]. As mentioned above, the labiodental approximant[ʋ] is considered a semivowel in some treatments. An unrounded central semivowel, [j̈] (or [j˗]), equivalent to [ɨ], is uncommon, though rounded [ẅ] (or [w̟]), equivalent to [ʉ], is found in Swedish and Norwegian.
Contrast with vowels
Semivowels, by definition, contrast with vowels by being non-syllabic. In addition, they are usually shorter than vowels.[3] In languages as diverse as Amharic, Yoruba, and Zuni, semivowels are produced with a narrower constriction in the vocal tract than their corresponding vowels.[6] Nevertheless, semivowels may be phonemically equivalent with vowels. For example, the English word fly can be considered either as an open syllable ending in a diphthong [flaɪ̯] or as a closed syllable ending in a consonant [flaj].[8]
It is unusual for a language to contrast a semivowel and a diphthong containing an equivalent vowel,[citation needed] but Romanian contrasts the diphthong /e̯a/ with /ja/, a perceptually similar approximant-vowel sequence. The diphthong is analyzed as a single segment, and the approximant-vowel sequence is analyzed as two separate segments.
In addition to phonological justifications for the distinction (such as the diphthong alternating with /e/ in singular-plural pairs), there are phonetic differences between the pair:[9]
Although a phonological parallel exists between /o̯a/ and /wa/, the production and perception of phonetic contrasts between the two is much weaker, likely because of lower lexical load for /wa/, which is limited largely to loanwords from French, and speakers' difficulty in maintaining contrasts between two back rounded semivowels in comparison to front ones.[10]
Contrast with fricatives/spirant approximants
According to the standard definitions, semivowels (such as [j]) contrast with fricatives (such as [ʝ]) in that fricatives produce turbulence, but semivowels do not. In discussing Spanish, Martínez Celdrán suggests setting up a third category of "spirant approximant", contrasting both with semivowel approximants and with fricatives.[11] Though the spirant approximant is more constricted (having a lower F2 amplitude), longer, and unspecified for rounding (viuda[ˈbjuða] 'widow' vs. ayuda [aˈʝʷuða] 'help'),[12] the distributional overlap is limited. The spirant approximant can only appear in the syllable onset (including word-initially, where the semivowel never appears). The two overlap in distribution after /l/ and /n/: enyesar [ẽɲɟʝeˈsaɾ] ('to plaster') aniego [ãˈnjeɣo] ('flood')[13] and although there is dialectal and ideolectal variation, speakers may also exhibit other near-minimal pairs like abyecto ('abject') vs. abierto ('opened').[14] One potential minimal pair (depending on dialect) is ya visto[(ɟ)ʝaˈβisto] ('already seen') vs. y ha visto [jaˈβisto] ('and he has seen').[15] Again, it is not present in all dialects. Other dialects differ in either merging the two or enhancing the contrast by moving the former to another place of articulation ([ʒ]), like in Rioplatense Spanish.
See also
References
  1. ^ Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996), p. 322.
  2. ^ Crystal (2008), p. 211.
  3. ^ a b Crystal (2008), pp. 431–2.
  4. ^ a b Martínez Celdrán (2004), p. 9.
  5. ^ Meyer (2005), p. 101.
  6. ^ a b c d Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996), p. 323.
  7. ^ a b Martínez Celdrán (2004), p. 8.
  8. ^ Cohen (1971), p. 51.
  9. ^ Chitoran (2002), pp. 212–214.
  10. ^ Chitoran (2002), p. 221.
  11. ^ Martínez Celdrán (2004), p. 6.
  12. ^ Martínez Celdrán (2004), p. 208.
  13. ^ Trager (1942), p. 222.
  14. ^ Saporta (1956), p. 288.
  15. ^ Bowen & Stockwell (1955), p. 236.
Sources
Further reading
Ohala, John; Lorentz, James, "The story of [w]: An exercise in the phonetic explanation for sound patterns", in Whistler, Kenneth; Chiarelloet, Chris; van Vahn, Robert Jr. (eds.), Proceedings of the 3rd Annual Meeting of the Berkeley Linguistics Society, Berkeley: Berkeley Linguistic Society, pp. 577–599
Last edited on 19 March 2021, at 00:00
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