The Weekly Newsletter of MIT Linguistics

Phonology Circle 2/21 - Karim Shoul

Title: The Relationship Between Back and Front Articulations in Moroccan Arabic
Speaker: Karim Shoul (CNRS)
Date/Time: Tuesday, Feb 21, 5:30-7p
Location: 32-D831

For this study, we considered /t/ and the back counterpart /T/ in the sequences /#CVb/, /VCV/ and /bVC#/, where /C/ is /t/ or /T/, and /V/ is /a/. The bilabial stop /b/ was chosen in order to minimize possible coarticulatory effects. The different positions (initial, intervocalic and final) permit to examine their possible effects on the realisation of the target consonants (Straka, 1963). The low vowel /a/ was chosen since it shows less linguo-palatal contact than /i/ and /u/ (Marchal, 1988).

The data was examined by direct palatography and linguography. Six native speakers of Moroccan Arabic participated in the experiment and none of them suffer from any articulatory disorders (Shoul, 2007).

Palatographic results show that both /t/ and /T/ are alveolars in all three positions. These findings are in accordance with Ghazeli’s (1977) observations concerning different Arabic dialects. However, linguographic results show that /t/ is laminal whereas the back corresponding /T/ is apical. The apicality of /T/ can be explained by a concave configuration of the tongue since it is produced with a backward movement of the the back of the tongue towards the pharynx, unlike the convexe configuration which characterizes /t/. This tongue configuration for /T/ favours the contact between the palate and the tongue with the tip (Clements, personal communication).

The apicality of /T/ and the laminality of /t/ can also be explained in terms of their acoustic consequences. According to Ladefoged and Maddieson (1996) laminal consonants are more often produced with more important frication noise than apical ones, and for Dart (1991) the separation of the tongue and the palate is shorter for apicals than for laminals. This seems to be supported by our data, since the laminal /t/ is produced with the participation of the blade of the tongue and then an important frication noise, whereas the apical /T/ is manifested by the contribution of the tip of the tongue and then a weak frication noise.