SRPP: A whole tongue approach to gutturals in Levantine Arabic using Generalized Additive Mixed Modelling of Tongue surfaces

Jalal Al-Tamimi (LLF)
07 October 2022, 11h0012h30

Guttural consonants (i.e., uvular, pharyngealized and pharyngeal) in Arabic are argued to form a natural class due to phonological patterning and use of a common oro-sensory zone in the pharynx (McCarthy, 1994; Sylak-Glassman, 2014a, 2014b). Yet, phonetic studies have failed to successfully find a single phonetic exponent to explain this patterning. In fact, many studies have tried to quantify this patterning by looking at changes within the root of the tongue. In this study, I Generalized Additive Mixed Modelling to quantify the whole tongue changes as obtained from Ultrasound Tongue Imaging. Using various quantification methods (2D and 3D difference splines), I show how gutturals use a common area in the vocal tract, which is indeed located at the tongue root, but also located at the tongue dorsum and body. The observed patterns point towards a gradient rather than categorical change. The phonological feature that can explain these patterns is predominantly the feature [+retracted], which is a subcomponent of the feature [+constricted epilaryngeal tube] (following the predictions of the Laryngeal Articulator Model” (LAM, Esling, 2005; Esling et al., 2019). However, tongue root, dorsum and body changes cannot be simply quantified by the feature [+retracted]. I discuss implications for an alternative formal account.

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Sylak-Glassman, J. (2014b). Deriving Natural Classes: The Phonology and Typology of Post-Velar Consonants. University of California, Berkeley.