Academic journal article Journal of Slavic Linguistics

[ATR] in Polish

Academic journal article Journal of Slavic Linguistics

[ATR] in Polish

Article excerpt

Abstract. The feature [ATR] is usually used exclusively for the description of vowels. In this article, it is argued that phonotactic constraints in Polish indicate that [ATR] may be a useful dimension in the description of consonants. Under this assumption we are able to offer a straightforward and phonetically motivated account of the discussed phonotactic constraints and relate them to palatalization processes in Polish. The consequence of the assumption that [ATR] is a consonantal dimension is a reanalysis of some palatalization processes in terms of [ATR] and the identification of the need for a new typology of palatalization processes.

1. Introduction

The feature [ATR] (Advanced Tongue Root) is usually used with reference to vowels in languages where pairs of vowels differ exc|usively in the position of the tongue root. In this article we will look at phonotactic constraints in Polish regarding sequences of posterior consonants followed by unrounded vowels. I will argue that the emerging pattern can be best accounted for it we assume that consonants are specified for the tongue root position and that these sequences must agree in the tongue root position. The article is organized as follows. In section 2 I will address the definition of [ATR] and remark on the feature [tense]. Section 3 presents the phonotactic constraints involving sequences of posterior consonants and unrounded vowels in Polish. In section 4 1 offer a novel account of the constraints discussed in the previous section. Section 5 presents the phonetic evidence supporting my account, and in section 6 I introduce more phonological evidence from Polish supporting the claim that [ATR] refers also to consonants. Some phonological processes in other languages supporting the claim that [ATR] can be used with reference to consonants will be discussed in section 7. Section 8 raises additional questions relative to this account, and section 9 summarizes the discussion.

2. What is [ATR]?

[ATR] is a phonological feature whose phonetic correlate is the advancement of the tongue root. One consequence of the advancement of the tongue root is an enlargement of the pharyngeal cavity. Another articulatory correlate involved might be the lowering of the larynx. In order to encompass all the phonetic effects, Lindau (1975) proposed feature [Expanded] instead of [ATR].

[ATR] was used for the first rime by Stewart (1967) to account for cross-height harmony systems in languages of West Africa, where high, mid, and low vowels may be either [+ATR] or [-ATR], and the vowels within one word have to agree in the position of the tongue root (but not in the height). Since then, [ATR] has been used to differentiate among more than three levels of vowel height in, for example, Bantu, Germanic, and Romance languages. For example, in French and Italian the distinction between [e] and [[e]] and [o] and [[c]] can be expressed as the difference in [ATR] (cf. Calabrese 1988, Kenstowicz 1994).

There has been some discussion on the use of the feature [ATR] and its relation to the feature [tense/lax] and [high], since they might be argued to describe the same phonetic effects. In what follows I will motivate my choice of the feature [ATR] for accounting for these effects.

2.1. [ATR] Versus [tense/lax]

As for the issue of [ATR] versus [tense/lax], Ladefoged and Maddieson (1996: 304-05) note:

   Among front vowels, there is this parallel between [+ATR] and
   [-ATR] tongue root vowels on the one hand, and Tense and Lax vowels
   on the other, but among back vowel pairs there is no such parallel.
   The high back retracted tongue root vowel is always further back
   than its counterpart, rather than further forward, as is the case
   for the traditional lax back vowels. Lax vowels of all kinds are
   normally taken to be more centralized. Retracted tongue root vowels
   do not always have this characteristic. … 
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