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Secondary articulation occurs when the articulation of a consonant is equivalent to the combined articulations of two or three simpler consonants, at least one of which is an approximant. The secondary articulation of such co-articulated consonants is the approximant-like articulation. It "colors" the primary articulation rather than obscuring it. Maledo (2011) defines secondary articulation as the superimposition of lesser stricture upon a primary articulation.
For example, the voiceless labialized velar plosive [kʷ] has a stop articulation, velar [k], with a simultaneous [w]-like rounding of the lips. This is in contrast to the doubly articulated labial-velar consonant [k͡p], which is articulated with two overlapping stop articulations.
There are a number of secondary articulations. The most frequently encountered are labialization (such as [kʷ]), palatalization (such as the Russian "soft" consonant [tʲ]), velarization (such as the English "dark" L [lˠ]), nasalization,[Nasalization is found in vowels. Do vowels have 2ary artic?] and pharyngealization (such as the Arabic "emphatic" consonant [tˤ]).
Although the most common transcription of secondary articulation in the IPA is to turn the letter for the secondary consonant into a superscript written after the primary consonant (e.g. the w in ⟨kʷ⟩), this is misleading, as the two articulations are pronounced more-or-less simultaneously. Secondary articulation often has a strong effect on surrounding vowels, and may have an audible realization that precedes the primary consonant, or both precedes and follows it. For example, /akʷa/ will not generally sound simply like [akwa], but may be closer to [awkwa] or even [awka]. For this reason, the IPA symbols for labialization and palatalization were for a time placed under the primary (e.g. ⟨k̫⟩ and ⟨ƫ⟩), and there is still an alternate symbol for velarization/pharyngealizaton that is superposed over the primary (e.g. ⟨ɫ⟩ for dark L).
Secondary articulation may be transcribed with either dedicated diacritics, or with a superscript version of an IPA letter that contains the relevant characteristics. Superscripts are also used for prenasalization, prestopping, affrication, trilled and other releases, on- and off-glides, etc.
The following superscript variants of IPA letters are supported by Unicode. Cells in grey are articulations that do not have dedicated IPA letters that can be superscripted. (Secondary diacritics can be used instead.) Dots replace superscript letters that have IPA equivalents but are not supported.
|Stop||ᵖ ᵇ||ᵗ ᵈ||. .||ᶜ ᶡ||ᵏ ᶢ||. .||.||ˀ|
|ᶲ ᵝ||ᶠ ᵛ||ᶿ ᶞ||ˢ ᶻ
|ᶴ ᶾ||ᶳ ᶼ||ᶝ ᶽ||. ᶨ||ˣ ˠ||ᵡ ʶ||. ˁ/ˤ||ʰ ʱ|
|ᶭ ʷ .
There are no superscript implosive or click letters, except accidentally with ꜝ, ꜞ. With a well-defined font, diacritics for full letters (such as the bridge for dental consonants, ring for voicelessness, etc.) should work with superscript letters as well, e.g. in ⟨ᵑ̊ǃ⟩.
- This was the complete set of IPA mid central vowels after the Kiel Convention.
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