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Voicing Continuum (was: Linguistic Terminology)

From:Kristian Jensen <kljensen@...>
Date:Monday, January 4, 1999, 23:49
Nik Taylor wrote:

>Kristian Jensen wrote: >> Actually, IMHO, the term 'voiced' and 'unvoiced' is pretty >> misleading because it gives the impression that its a binary >> feature when in fact there is a pretty broad spectrum from creaky >> voiced to modal voice to unvoice (there are several other kinds >> of voicing in between these three). > >There's also breathy voice. However, I don't think that "voiced" >and "unvoiced" are in any way misleading - they are the main >phonations throughout the world, and many languages contain only >them (and I know of none that contains only one of those), so it >makes sense, in my mind, to distinguish primarily between them. >Besides, they are voiced and unvoiced, if you wish, they could be >called "simple voiced" and "simple voiceless" to distinguish >between them and creaky or breathy voices. > >> I suspect that in John's dialect, initial /d/ >> is in fact something called 'slack voice' (something between >> modal voice and voiceless). > >I have never encountered this term before, what does it mean, and >how can it be *between* voice and voiceless? The vocal cords >either vibrate (as in voiced and creaky voice) or don't (as in >voiceless or breathy voice).
There's an excellent book called 'The Sounds of the World's Languages' by Peter Ladefoged and Ian Maddieson (ISBN 0-631-19815-6) that describes the different voicing conitnuums quite well in my opinion. Basically, the continuum in laryngeal setting varies in how closely together the vocal cords are held. Vibration of the cords can be prevented by opening the glottis widely enough so that the folds are too far apart to vibrate, or by pressing the folds together, as for a glottal stop. In between these two extremes, the cords will vibrate (provided the speaker is not out of breath). The book recognizes five steps in this continuum of modes of vibration of the glottis between these two extremes. Below is an excerpt of a table from the book with short definitions of the different voicings in this continuum: Voiceless: No vibration of the vocal cords; the arytenoid cartilages are far apart preventing vibration. Breathy Voice: (Also called 'Murmur') Vocal cords vibrating but without appreciable contact; arytenoid cartilages further apart then in modal voice; higher rate of airflow than in modal voice. Slack Voice: Vocal folds vibrating but more loosely than in modal voice; slightly higher rate of airflow than in modal voice. Modal Voice: Regular vibrations of the vocal folds at any frequency within the speaker's normal range. Stiff Voice: Vocal folds vibrating but more stiffly than in modal voice; slightly lower rate of airflow than in modal voice. Creaky Voice: (Also called 'Laryngealized') Vocal folds vibrating anteriorly, but with the arytenoid cartilages pressed together; considerably lower rate of airflow than in modal voice. Glottalized: No vibration of vocal folds; arytenoid cartilages close together as in /?/ preventing vibration. So when I say that slack voice is something *between* voiceless and modal voiced, I meant that the *laryngeal constriction* is somewhere between the voiceless and the modal voiced. That is, the glottal constriction is not as tight as modal voice yet not as weak as voiceless. You mentioned, Nik, if I understood you correctly, that you do not know of any language that contain only one phonation. But in many Polynesian languages, the stops are only voiceless. Similarly, in some Australian languages, the stops are only voiced. A language that you might find interesting is described in the book as having contrasting pairs of stops that are *not* between 'voice' and 'voiceless'. In fact, they are ALL 'voiced': slack voiced stops contrasting phonemically with stiff voiced stops. This language is Javanese. Based on the examples like Javanese given in the book, I still think it is misleading to have the terms 'voice' and 'unvoice' alone while disregarding the exact laryngeal settings. How would you have otherwise described Javanese stops: "constrasting stops between voiced and voiced"? Hmmm... I don't think so. Something else is missing. I hope that was enlightening 8-) Regards, -Kristian- 8-)