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Secondary articulation refers to co-articulated consonants where the two articulations are not of the same manner. The approximant-like secondary articulation is weaker than the primary, and colors it rather than obscuring it. For example, the voiceless labialized velar plosive [kʷ] has only a single stop articulation, velar [k], with a simultaneous [w]-like rounding of the lips, and is usually heard as a kind of [k]. This is in contrast to the doubly articulated labial-velar consonant [k͡p], which has two equal stop articulations at the velum and lips.
Richard Maledo (2011) further defines secondary articulation as the superimposition of lesser stricture upon a primary articulation. These sounds are affected by the environment in which they occur and it is largely anticipatory of the preceding or succeeding sound. Secondary articulation according to him is largely potent in English among other languages, e.g., Arabic. There are a number of secondary articulations. The most frequently encountered are labialization (such as [kʷ]), palatalization (such as the Russian “soft” consonant [pʲ]), velarization (such as the English “dark” L [lˠ]), nasalization, and pharyngealization (such as the Arabic “emphatic” consonant [tˤ]).
Although the symbol for secondary articulation is a superscript written after the primary consonant, this is misleading, as they are pronounced simultaneously. Since secondary articulation has a strong effect on surrounding vowels, it will often seem that it precedes the consonant, or both precedes and follows it. For this reason, the IPA symbols for labialization and palatalization were for a time placed directly under the consonant (as [k̫] and [ƫ]), and there is still an alternate symbol for velarization or pharyngealizaton that is superposed across the consonant (as in [ɫ] for dark L).
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