Romanian Palatalization: The Role of Place of Articulation in Perception

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It has been proposed that the perception of palatalized consonants is influenced by their primary place of articulation. Both perceptual studies of palatalization and cross-linguistic distributional patterns suggest the existence of a markedness asymmetry: palatalized labials are more marked than palatalized coronals. This paper presents the results of a perceptual study of labial and coronal fricatives, with 22 native speakers of Romanian. It was found that, unlike Russian and Japanese listeners, Romanians exhibit higher sensitivity to the plain-palatalized contrast in labials as opposed to coronals. Thus Romanian seems to pose a challenge to the typological generalization. Several differences between Romanian and other languages with the plain/palatalized contrast are discussed. It is suggested that the different behavior of Romanian may be due to the different nature of palatalization in this language with regard to its phonetic realization and its position in the syllable (final only).


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