The Phonology of Coronals

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This study investigates the phonological behavior of coronal consonants, i.e. sounds produced with the tip or blade of the tongue. The analysis draws on data from over 120 languages and dialects. A definition of coronality is proposed that rejects the current view holding that palatals are positively marked for this feature. The feature [coronal] is assumed to be privative; the natural class of noncoronals is captured with the feature [peripheral], which dominates [labial] and [velar] in feature geometry. The book contains a detailed examination of the phonological patterning of segments belonging to each of the six coronal subplaces (i.e. interdental, dental, alveolar, retroflex, palatoalveolar, and alveolopalatal). A universal set of features is posited that accounts for these facts. Inventories of coronal consonants are treated in depth and impossible contrasts are accounted for with several if-then statements. The present study also contains a lengthy analysis of the phonology of rhotic consonants. A set of features is postulated which captures natural classes involving rhotics and nonrhotic consonants and which distinguishes the various stricture types among rhotics (i.e. trill vs. tap vs. approximant).<br />

Subjects: Phonology; Theoretical linguistics

  • Affiliations: 1: Zentrum für Allgemeine Sprachwissenschaft, Berlin

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