Relative articulation

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Template:Short descriptionTemplate:Refimprove Template:Place of articulation

Template:Manner of articulation

In phonetics and phonology, relative articulation is description of the manner and place of articulation of a speech sound relative to some reference point. Typically, the comparison is made with a default, unmarked articulation of the same phoneme in a neutral sound environment. For example, the English velar consonant Template:IPA is fronted before the vowel Template:IPA (as in keep) compared to articulation of Template:IPA before other vowels (as in cool). This fronting is called palatalization.

The relative position of a sound may be described as advanced (fronted), retracted (backed), raised, lowered, centralized, or mid-centralized. The latter two terms are only used with vowels, and are marked in the International Phonetic Alphabet with diacritics over the vowel letter. The others are used with both consonants and vowels, and are marked with iconic diacritics under the letter. Another dimension of relative articulation that has IPA diacritics is the degree of roundedness, more rounded and less rounded.

Advanced and retracted

Template:Infobox IPA Template:Also An advanced or fronted sound is one that is pronounced farther to the front of the vocal tract than some reference point. The diacritic for this in the IPA is the subscript plus, Template:Unichar. Conversely, a retracted or backed sound is one that is pronounced farther to the back of the vocal tract, and its IPA diacritic is the subscript minus Template:Unichar. When there is no room for the sign under a letter, it may be written after, using: Template:Unichar as in Template:IPA, or Template:Unichar as in Template:IPA.

Both vowels and consonants may be fronted or backed. In verbal description, the prefix pre- may be used to indicate fronting, especially in the terms prepalatal and prevelar. Otherwise phrases like "fronted u" may be used. For retraction, either the prefix post- may be used to indicate retraction, as above, or phrases like "retracted i" may be used.

In English, the back vowel Template:IPA is farther forward than what is normally indicated by the IPA letter Template:IPA. This fronting may be shown explicitly, especially within a narrow transcription: Template:IPA. Whether this is as far front as the central vowel Template:IPA, or somewhere between Template:IPA and Template:IPA, may need to be clarified verbally, or on a vowel diagram.

The difference between a fronted and non-fronted consonant can be heard in the English words key Template:IPA and coo Template:IPA, where the Template:IPA in key is fronted under the influence of the front vowel Template:IPA. In English, the plosive in the affricate Template:IPA, as in the word church, is farther back than an alveolar Template:IPA due to assimilation with the postalveolar fricative Template:IPA. In narrow transcription, Template:IPA may be transcribed Template:IPA. In General American English, the Template:IPA in the word eighth is farther front than normal, due to assimilation with the interdental consonant Template:IPA, and may be transcribed as Template:IPA.

Languages may have phonemes that are farther back than the nearest IPA symbol. For example, Polish sz is a postalveolar sibilant. While this is often transcribed as Template:IPA, it is not domed (partially palatalized) the way a prototypical Template:IPA is. A more precise transcription is therefore Template:IPA. Similarly, the velar consonants in Kwakiutl are actually postvelar; that is, pronounced farther back than a prototypical velar, between velar Template:IPA and uvular Template:IPA, and is thus transcribed Template:IPA.

Officially, the IPA symbol Template:IPA stands for the open front unrounded vowel. However, in most languages where it is used, Template:IPA actually stands for the central, rather than the front vowel. If precision is desired, this may also be indicated with the minus sign Template:IPA, although a number of other transcription are also possible.[1]

Raised and lowered

Template:Infobox IPA Template:Also A raised sound is articulated with the tongue or lip raised higher than some reference point. In the IPA this is indicated with the uptack diacritic Template:Unichar.

A lowered sound is articulated with the tongue or lip lowered (the mouth more open) than some reference point. In the IPA this is indicated with the downtack diacritic Template:Unichar. Both consonants and vowels may be marked as raised or lowered.

When there is no room for the tack under a letter, it may be written after, using: Template:Unichar as in Template:IPA, or Template:Unichar as in Template:IPA.

Raised and lowered vowels

In the case of a vowel, raising means that the vowel is closer, toward the top of the vowel chart. For example, Template:IPA represents a vowel somewhere between cardinal Template:IPA and Template:IPA, or may even be Template:IPA. Lowering, on the other hand, means that the vowel is more open, toward the bottom of the chart. For example, Template:IPA represents a vowel somewhere between cardinal Template:IPA and Template:IPA, or may even be Template:IPA.

In other non-IPA transcription systems, raised vowels are indicated with the iconic upward-pointing arrowhead Template:Unichar while lowered vowels have the downward arrowhead Template:Unichar. Thus, IPA Template:IPA is equivalent to [e˰], IPA Template:IPA is equivalent to [e˯].

Raised and lowered consonants

With consonants, raising and lowering changes the manner of articulation to something with more or less stricture. For example, raised approximants and trills are fricatives, whereas lowered fricatives are approximants. The ambiguous symbols for rear approximant/fricatives may be specified as fricatives with the raising diacritic, Template:IPA, or as approximants with the lowering diacritic, Template:IPA. In Spanish, the lenited allophones of the voiced stops are generally transcribed as fricatives even though they are approximants, or intermediate between fricative and approximant. This may be partially due to the fact there is only a dedicated IPA symbol for one of them, the velar approximant. More precise transcription will use the fricative symbols with the lowering diacritic, Template:IPA (the last symbol may be rendered as Template:IPA, but that may not display properly in some browsers). Czech, on the other hand, requires the opposite: Its fricated trill, which is a separate phoneme, may be transcribed as a raised trill, Template:IPA. Similarly, the non-sibilant coronal fricative is written Template:IPA, and the voiceless velar lateral fricative as Template:IPA. (A dedicated letter for this sound, Template:Angbr IPA, is not part of the IPA.)

From most open (least stricture) to most close (most stricture), there are several independent relationships among speech sounds. Open vowelmid vowelclose vowelapproximantfricativeplosive is one; flapstop is another; and trill → trilled fricative yet another. The IPA chart has been organized so that the raising diacritic moves the value of a letter through these series toward the top of the chart, and the lowering diacritic toward the bottom of the chart, but this only works for some of the consonants. While it would be convenient if all consonants could be so ordered, consonants are too diverse for a single dimension to capture their relationships. In addition, many of the points along the series may be nasalized or lateralized as well, and these parameters are independent of stricture.

Examples of stricture series
Oral Nasal Flap Trill Lateral
Stop Template:IPA Template:IPA Template:IPA Template:IPA
Fricative Template:IPA Template:IPA Template:IPA Template:IPA
Approximant / Vibrant Template:IPA Template:IPA Template:IPA Template:IPA Template:IPA
Close vowel Template:IPA Template:IPA (N/A)
Near-close vowel Template:IPA Template:IPA
Close-mid vowel Template:IPA Template:IPA
Mid vowel Template:IPA Template:IPA
Open-mid vowel Template:IPA Template:IPA
Near-open vowel Template:IPA Template:IPA
Open vowel Template:IPA Template:IPA


Centralized vowels

Template:Infobox IPA A centralized vowel is a vowel that is more central than some point of reference, or that has undergone a shift in this direction. The diacritic for this in the International Phonetic Alphabet is the dieresis, Template:Unichar.

For example, to transcribe rounded and unrounded near-close central vowels, the symbols Template:IPA may be used.

In other (non-IPA) transcription systems, Template:Angbr IPA (or Template:Angbr IPA) will be seen instead of Template:IPA (by analogy with Template:IPA). Before the letters Template:IPA were added to the IPA in 1993, the symbols Template:IPA were used for these near-schwa values. Template:IPA would now be assumed to represent articulations intermediate between Template:IPA and Template:IPA. Similarly, Template:IPA would be intermediate between Template:IPA and Template:IPA.

However, since the IPA does not specify the exact amount of centralization that centralized vowels have, the symbols Template:IPA and Template:IPA can in modern transcriptions[2] be at times used to transcribe fully central vowels, or vowels that have a variable amount of centralization.

In the majority of languages described as having an Template:IPA (which denotes a front vowel), the vowel is actually central and therefore a more narrow transcription of it is Template:IPA. However, this symbol is not commonly used mainly because of the common practice of avoiding using diacritics wherever possible, and because very few languages contrast front and central open unrounded vowels.

Instead of the diacritic for centralization, the advanced or retracted diacritics may be used (an equivalent transcription of Template:IPA is retracted Template:IPA), but the concept of centralization is convenient in cases where front and back vowels move toward each other, rather than all advancing or retracting in the same direction.

When a transcription system uses both the centralized and the advanced/retracted diacritics, generally the former indicates a more central vowel, so that e.g. Template:IPA indicates an only slightly centralized (retracted) front vowel Template:IPAblink, whereas Template:IPA indicates a more centralized (retracted) front vowel, or even a fully central vowel (which, as stated above, has a dedicated IPA symbol Template:IPAblink).

Centralized semivowels

Semivowels can be centralized much like vowels; for instance, the semivowels corresponding to the close central vowels Template:IPA can be written as centralized palatal semivowels Template:IPA, or centralized velar semivowels Template:IPA. The transcription Template:IPA vs. Template:IPA may also denote a distinction in the type of rounding, with the former symbol denoting a semivowel with compressed rounding typical of front vowels, and the latter symbol denoting a semivowel with protruded rounding typical of central and back vowels, though an additional verbal clarification is usual in such cases, as the IPA does not provide any official means to distinguish sounds with compressed and protruded rounding.

Mid-centralized vowels

Template:Infobox IPA Mid-centralized vowels are closer to the midpoint of the vowel space than their referent vowels. That is, they are closer to the mid-central vowel schwa Template:IPA not just by means of centralization, but also by raising or lowering. The diacritic used to mark this in the International Phonetic Alphabet is the over-cross, Template:Unichar.

In most languages, vowels become mid-centralized when spoken quickly, and in some, such as English and Russian, many vowels are also mid-centralized when unstressed. This is a general characteristic of vowel reduction.

Even when fully articulated, the vowels of a language may be on the schwa side of a cardinal IPA vowel. One example of this is Lisbon Portuguese, where unstressed e is a near-close near-back unrounded vowel. That is, it lies between the close back unrounded vowel Template:IPA and schwa, where Template:IPA sits in the vowel chart, but unlike Template:IPA, is not rounded. It may be written Template:IPA, as in pegar Template:IPA "to hold", though such a fully narrow transcription is rarely used, with symbols Template:IPA, Template:IPA or even Template:IPA being the usual broader transcriptions.

More and less rounded

Template:Infobox IPA There are also diacritics, respectively Template:Unichar and Template:Unichar, to indicate greater or lesser degrees of rounding. For example, the English Template:IPAslink often has very little rounding, and may be transcribed Template:IPA. In Assamese, on the other hand, the open back rounded vowel is much more rounded than is typical for a low vowel, and may be transcribed Template:IPA.

These diacritics are sometimes also used with consonants to indicate degrees of labialization. For example, in the Athabaskan language Hupa, voiceless velar fricatives distinguish three degrees of labialization, transcribed either Template:IPA or Template:IPA.[3]

The Extensions to the IPA have two additional symbols for degrees of rounding: spread, as in Template:IPA, and open-rounded Template:Angbr (œ), as in English Template:IPA and Template:IPA.

Sound changes

Many sound changes involve changes in place of articulation:


  1. They include: centralized Template:IPAblink (Template:IPA), centralized Template:IPAblink (Template:IPA), lowered Template:IPAblink (Template:IPA) and advanced Template:IPAblink (Template:IPA), although the last transcription can also indicate an only somewhat advanced back vowel.
  2. See e.g. Template:Harvcoltxt, who transcribes the central realizations of the English Template:Sc2 vowel Template:IPA with the symbols Template:IPA instead of Template:IPA.
  3. A simpler transcription is also possible, and involves putting an additional labialization diacritic next to the last symbol: Template:IPA.


Template:IPA navigation