Update: 2016-02-03 09:07 PM -0500


The Human Voice


by U Kyaw Tun (UKT) (M.S., I.P.S.T., USA) and staff of Tun Institute of Learning (TIL) . Not for sale. No copyright. Free for everyone. Prepared for students and staff of TIL Research Station, Yangon, MYANMAR :  http://www.tuninst.net , www.romabama.blogspot.com

index.htm | Top

Contents of this page

Places of Articulation (POA) - where consonantal sound is produced
Nasal voice and Pharyngalized voice
Uvula - {lhya-hking} : the most prominent part of the interior of the throat

Passages worthy of note:
Nasality is above all else an auditory phenomenon (that is, the way you hear) and not primarily an articulatory one able to be specified in terms of the position of the velum.

UKT note
aspiration faucal pillars nasality phonotactics

Contents of this page

The Place of Articulation (POA) of consonants:
where sound is produced -- the anatomical approach

This section is based on the very first "book" from which my wife (Daw Thanthan Tun) and I, in our old age, got our introduction to Phonetics:
The Introduction of the Online Phonetics Course, Department of Linguistics, University of Lausanne, Switzerland. Note that online links are changing all the time, and the present link is http://www.unil.ch/ling/page30184_fr.html 101025.

If you are a newcomer into the field, especially if you have learned English as your second language (L2), you will feel overwhelmed by the technical terms. Moreover, the same term can mean differently to different authors. For example, I have a hard time trying to pin down the meanings of words like <fricative>, <sibilant>, and <spirant> in trying to placing {a.} and {sa.} in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) table. Don't despair, there's no other way out -- good luck!

This chapter presents some fundamental ideas about the articulatory production of speech sounds. It also introduces the major classes into which speech sounds are divided according to the IPA system. The major speech-sound classes are also described in works on Burmese-Grammar (written in Burmese-Myanmar interspersed with Pali-Myanmar) which might have been based on the works of Panini (written in Sanskrit-Devan). Since both Devanagari and Myanmar are derived from the Asoka script, which is based on sound phonemic principles, I am able to transcribe one from the other. These scripts because of their phonemic principles could be called phonetic scripts comparable to the IPA. Through IPA, these Eastern systems (in Romabama) and Western languages (in IPA) could be directly brought together without having to rely on our hearing. When I say on 'our hearing', I mean to say the hearing of the phoneticians which would be limited by the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis. In other words, even though being trained thoroughly in Phonetics, their hearing would be "hampered" by their L1. That is, a German phonetician would "hear" something, say the {a.}/{tha.} spoken by a Bur-Myan as /s/ whereas an English phonetician would hear /θ/.

Moreover, different people in Myanmar itself pronounce {a.}/{tha.} differently. I have several of my old students with the name "Than" call themselves "Hsan". That was the case with most of my students from the Inl region in the Shan State. I have in mind a particular girl student Ma Than Nw from Inl who studied Chemistry with me in Mandalay university. She later became an assistant lecturer in Chemistry - one of my staff in Taunggyi College in 1980s. The Bur-Myan word for 'medicine' is {hs:}, which Ma Than Nw (she called herself "Ma San Nw") would pronounce (as would other inhabitants of Inl) as / {hsi:}/ . Unfortunately, the word {hsi:} in Bur-Myan means 'urine'. So be careful when you are asking a person from Inl for a bottle of medicine: he might bring you a bottle of 'urine'!

UKT: When I start telling about Ma Than Nw to my Rakhine (Arakanese) friends lately, they also told me (now that they know about my interest in "pronunciation") that Rakhine also pronounce 'medicine' as / {hsi:}/ . Well! I never! -- UKT101104

Most sounds in speech are produced by passing a stream of air from the lungs through one or more resonators belonging to the phonetic apparatus. The 4 principal resonators are: 

1. the pharyngeal cavity -- divided into 3 regions:  nasopharynx, oropharynx, and larygopharynx
    Listen to what is Pharyngalized voice  <))  {aa-n} from:
    [online from www.ims.uni-stuttgart.de/phonetik/EGG/pharyn.wav 101030 <)) ]

   See Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypopharynx 071120
   See also, Bronwyn Jones, Radiographic evaluation of motility of mouth and pharynx , 2006,
   http://www.nature.com/gimo/contents/pt1/full/gimo25.html 071208
   Click to see more details of pharynx:
   lateral view (look for vocal cords), posterior view (look for uvula {lhya-hking})

2. the oral cavity -- the most active articulator in this cavity is the tongue. The passive part which would be approached
   by the tongue (mostly tip) is the palate or the roof of the mouth. If only we could make our body small enough
   and lie flat on the tongue and look up, we would be seeing the palate from the front teeth to the uvula:
   http://www.yorku.ca/earmstro/journey/palates.html 101104


3. the labial cavity, and


4. the nasal cavity -- more complex than is usually shown. See my note on Anatomy of the Nasal cavity.
   Resonance in all these air cavities determines your "nasalized voice". 
   Now listen to what is described as Nasalized voice <))  {nha-n}.
   [online from www.ims.uni-stuttgart.de/phonetik/EGG/nasal.wav 101030 <)) ]
   See Wikipedia articles:
   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nasal_cavity 071101, and
   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Illu_nose_nasal_cavities.jpg 071101


Contents of this page

Nasal voice and Pharyngalized voice

It is said that men usually sing and generally speak in {aa-n} and women in {nha-n}: / {yauk~kya: aa/ maim~ma. nha}

Note: Bur-Myan spelling of {yauk~kya:} 'man' checked with MLC MED384. Notice the special use of {a.t}. It is not a {king:si:}. Also, notice that there is only one {ka.}. - UKT101102
Spelling of {main:ma.} 'woman' checked with MLC MED357. Though I usually spelled it as {maim~ma.}, it seems to be wrong!

In Nat Pws 'Spirit Dances' {nt-pw:} still held through out the mainland Myanmar in the lunar month of Nattaw {nt-tau la.} (about the time of Halloween of the West), female mediums tried to imitate the voice of a child nat by singing and speaking in a particular nasal voice. This voice, derisively called {nt thu-ng n}, is probably the most nasal one could hear. Being a child (even though now dead but only in spirit form), the medium could ask for any gift (usually expensive) from her believers. To the non-believers, a person speaking with such a kind of voice is a hoax.

UKT: Pix on the right: Image of Ma Nhl . Entry number 6 of Dr. Htin Aung's Folk Elements in Burmese Buddhism
   The Burmese name is {ma. nh: l:} which, as Dr. Htin Aung had suggested, means the 'Lady with the Flute'. However, since the spirit-medium assuming her part usually spoke with a child's piping voice, the name could be referring to the piping-voice rather than to an actual flute.
  Picture right was from U Khin Maung Than Traditional Nat Cult whose original source seemed to be Noel F. Singer Thirty-Seven Nats Gartmore: Kiscadale, 1992. Singer's illustrations were quite different from that of Sir Richard C. Temple Thirty-Seven Nats, Griggs, London, 1906. Click to see R.C. Temple's nats.
   U Po Kya described the image as: standing on lotus-throne-platform, a child figure, {si:pon} on head, belt on waist, bead bangles on both hands which were hanging down.

I wonder if what we call in Bur-Myan {aa-n} to be Pharyngalized voice  <))  ; and {nha-n} to be Nasalized voice <))  .


Studies of nasality (nasal sound) have shown that, apart of the nasal cavity, there is at least one "cavity" that functions as a resonator. See J. Laver, The Phonetic Description of Voice Quality, 1980, p.78-. Available as http://www.ling.mq.edu.au/ling/units/sph302/papers/laver_1980_nasal.pdf download 071029. Laver writes:
   "... nasality is a condition of resonance of special kind. ... [It] is the result of resonance in a cul-de-sac resonator [or side chamber ] , opening off the passageway through which a sound is resonated and delivered to the outer air ... [The possible location] ... for this cul-de-sac ... [is] ... a small side chamber formed by the approximation of the back of the tongue behind the velar contact to the undersurface of the uvula, but as in uvular nasals, there is normally a lateral space between the two sets of faucal pillars. Also, in velar and in uvular nasals, the surface of the tongue forward of the closure with the soft palate, if touched with a finger tip, can be felt vibrating with any but the very weakest degree of voicing. The surface of the tongue can therefore excite the resonances of the front of the mouth, and the oral cavity forms a resonant chamber in the formation of these two nasal stops. [ {na.} and {ma.}] The oral cavity is made to resonate here in much the same way that the nasal cavity can be in the voice quality popularly labelled as 'cold in the head voice' when entry to the nasal cavity is blocked by catarrhal mucus in a heavy cold, with the acoustic excitation being transmitted through the tissue of the soft palate itself, or perhaps through the mucal plug."

Cul-de-sac resonator, unlike the other resonators, is a "temporary" resonator, whose location is indicated by faucal pillars. -- (note to be checked with my peers)
Supralaryngeal means "above the larynx". Broadly speaking, supralayngeal tracts play a large part in the production of consonantal sounds, whereas the larynx is important for the production of vowels. Since the division into consonants and vowels is not clear cut, during the production of a human sound most of the muscles of the sound producing system come into play: some to the fullest extent, whilst others play diminishing roles. However, in the description of a sound, only the major players are mentioned. -- (note to be checked with my peers)

You should also familiarise yourself with the names of the parts of the speech organ shown on the (Fig.1.2). These are the places near which sound is produced. And most of them, especially those in the front part of the mouth, can be easily seen. They are known as the Points of Articulation or POA. The POA have been described in the East thousands of years ago, and there are terms corresponding to modern terms, but for the present, I will not give them.

UKT: See a mechanical model in my notes. When looking at the model, remember also that the vocal organs are made of "soft" tissues, whereas mechanical models are made of "hard" metal or plastic. One of the basic mistakes the introductory books on Phonetics usually make is to "equate" the human voice production apparatus to mechanical models. Though the intention is commendable, it usually leaves a wrong impression with the students. I am speaking this from my own experience who had to learn Phonetics without a human guide.

Note that velum /viː.ləm/ is a term used by linguists and phoneticians for the soft palate. Note where it is located, because, it will be referred to in the production of "velar sounds" and "nasal sounds".

The velar sounds referring to the velum are given by English-Latin letters <k> and <g>, and digraph <ng>. Myanmars should note that of the three, English-Latin <k> has two allophones which are equivalent to {ka.} and {hka.} in Bur-Myan and <g> has two allophones {ga.} and {Ga.}. Thus, there are actually five phonemes /k/ /kʰ/ /g/ /gʰ/ /ŋ/ (narrow transcription). However, only three, /k/ /g/ /ŋ/ (broad transcription) are usually shown in IPA table of consonants. In our work on Bur-Myan (including Pal-Myan), we need to show all the five, /k/ , /kʰ/ , /g/ , /gʰ/, /ŋ/ and their equivalents {ka.}, {hka.}, {ga.}, {Ga.}, {nga.}. We must note the superscript <h> in [kʰ] by no means shows that [kʰ] is just an aspirated [k]. In Bur-Myan and in Indic scripts, [kʰ] is a phoneme represented by respective dedicated graphemes and ख. That {hka.} is not aspirated {ka.} is important. The process of 'aspiration' (a secondary articulation) in Bur-Myan is the formation of {ha.hto:}-medial, which is not allowed on {ka.}. That is,

{ka.} + virama (or vowel killer) + {ha.} --> not allowed by Bur-Myan phonotactics.
That is, {ka.ha.hto:} is not allowed. That is one of reasons, why Romabama {hka.} is transliterated with "h" before "k". On the other hand, {ngha.} is allowed. We also note that {ngha.} is beyond the ability of non-Burmese to pronounce.

The question now is: why wouldn't Bur-Myan phonotactics allow the formation {ka.ha.hto:} - UKT101023

The answer probably would have to be found in the process of {ha.hto:}-medial formation. The more fundamental question is the POA of English <h> and Bur-Myan {ha.}. If <h> is a fricative it could either be pharyngeal or glottal. See my table of IPA (Pulmonic) given on M03-BEPS-indx . Because of the formation of {ha.hto:}, I have placed the Bur-Myan {ha.} as an approximant in the pharyngeal position. Since, {ka.} as a velar consonant (because of its POA) being close to the pharyngeal resonator would have some elements of the pharyngeal sound, {ka.} and {kha.} would almost be the same and the latter would become redundant. It is probably because of this reason, {ha.hto:} is not allowed on {ka.}. Then, you would ask: what about {nga.}? Isn't it also in the velar and therefore close to pharyngeal resonator? In the case of {nga.}, it is sonority coming into play.

I'm waiting for comments from my peers. UKT101023

Since, the term <velum> can also to refer to other membranous tissues in the body, <soft palate> is the term of choice in referring to speech organ. Because [k kʰ g gʰ ŋ] sounds are produced in the region of the velum, they are commonly referred to as velars. The Eastern linguists (i.e. the Pali and Sanskrit scholars)  describe {ka., hka., ga., Ga., nga.}, or क ख ग ङ [[Ka, Kha, Ga, Nga]] as Gutturals.

Note that Romabama and Sanskrit transcriptions for the second {wag}-akshara are different -- {hk} and [[Kh]]. Whatever, the "transcription" may be, remember that
the sounds are not simple "aspirated" sounds but are more complex.
in either {hk} or [[Kh]], "h" is just a part of the digraph.
in Romabama, the notation {kha.} means {ka.kri: ha.hto:} which is not allowed in Burmese.

The fundamental difference in transcription between Indic languages and Myanmar is due to two factors. Firstly, the Sanskrit speakers are sibilant speakers: they can not articulate the {a.}/{tha.} sounds and articulate {a.} as {sa.}. Secondly, Indic transcriptions were first started by Western phonologists who cannot differentiate c1 from c2 sounds.

UKT: I am speaking from personal experience: my American classmates told me that the two sounds {ka.} and {hka.} were the same. They could only call me as {hkyau} instead of {kyau}. In the end they "christianed" me Joe.

We find the same difference in transcription/transliteration of r4c2 akshara. Romabama transliteration for r4c2 is {hta.}, but the corresponding Devanagari akshara थ (U0925) is [[Th]]. Because of this, we find unnecessary misunderstandings between the speakers of Burmese-Myanmar and Hindi-Devanagari as the following example shows:

UKT: Most Myanmar teachers and students of Geography, think that the name of the Great Indian desert, the Thar Desert to be (Hindi: थार मरुस्थल), to be {a:} . This is because in Myanmar the <th>, after the English <th> (as in <thin>), has the sound [θ]. If only had we taken the correspondence between Devanagari and Myanmar aksharas, we would have known that the name is to be pronounced with {hta.} (r4c2) sound instead of {a.}/{tha.} (r6c5) sound. Transliteration of Hindi-Devanagari थार into Burmese-Myanmar is {htar} which might be loosely pronounced as {hta:}. (Since I don't speak or write Hindi-Devan, I still need to check the transliteration.) See Wikipedia on Thar Desert: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thar_Desert 071112.

Similarly, our brand of Buddhism, Theravada (Pāli: theravāda , थेरवाद ), is {ht-ra.wa-da.}. However if you follow the transcript "Theravada" you get {-ra.wa-da.} -- a wrong spelling. The first syllable is pronounced with [tʰ] not [θ]. (I need to check थेरवाद which I have derived at from Pali-Myanmar.)

The divergence between Romabama and Devanagari stems from the different ways the speakers of Pali-Myanmar and Sanskrit-Devanagari articulate the same akshara r6c5: {a.}/{tha.} and स (U0938). Burmese-Myanmar and Pali-Myanmar speakers pronounce this akshara as [θ], the same sound as in English-Latin <th> of words such as <thin>. Whereas, Hindi-Devanagari and Sanskrit-Devanagari speakers realised it as [s]. Though English is supposed to be a Germanic language, the [θ] sound present in English is absent in German. The Germans pronounce [θ] as [s].

UKT: In one of our email exchanges, Zev Handel (Assoc. Prof. of Chinese and Linguistics, Univ. of Washington, http://depts.washington.edu/asianll/) (Sep 15, 2007) wrote:
   "The "th" sound is relatively rare in languages of the world.  But I doubt very much that German in the 19th century couldn't recognize it.  They were familiar with English, and as philologists interested in foreign and ancient languages, they would have been alert to the presence of non-German sounds in other languages."

Dr. Handel was responding to my suggestion in the following:
   "I have been interested why {tha.} has become {sa.} in International Pali. Among the prominent Western Pali scholars are Germans such as Friedrich Max Mller (1823-1900), and since their L1 (the spoken German) lacks the sound of {tha.} they could only "hear" {sa.}: this reminds me of Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis. Unable to hear {tha.}, they "typically replace it with a voiceless alveolar fricative" {sa.}."

With this note of mine, I sincerely thank Zev for his patience with me.

I have stated that velars are gutturals. Do not look for gut among the speech organs. It is a term used to describe the throat. Gutturals are velars, uvulas, or sounds produced in the in the interior of the throat, regions near the "soft palate". Please note that soft palate (velum) and palate (or hard palate) are different. Sounds produced near the palate (i.e. the hard palate) are known as palatals. The palatal approximants with sound of / j / ( /jes/ JDPD16-603) are:
English-Latin <y> in <yes> , and its correspondent
Bur-Myan {ya.} .

UKT: Note that the palatal vd. stop is given as [ ɟ ] (with a horizontal stroke in the middle) and not [ j ] (without stroke). The palatal stops {sa.} and {za.} (killed forms) are [c] and [ ɟ ] , respectively, in the coda. However in the onset {sa.} and {za.} are sibilants (of the superset 'fricatives') similar to English <s> [s] and <z> [z].

Contents of this page


The uvula /ˈjuːvjʊlə/ is a small, mucosa-covered set of muscles, musculus uvulae, hanging down from the soft palate, near the back of the throat. The word is derived from the diminutive of uva, the Latin word for "grape", due to the uvula's grape-like shape. Because, the uvula is quite prominent when a person opens his mouth, cartoons often feature the uvula when characters are shown with gaping mouths. In Burmese-Myanmar, uvula is known as {lhya-hking} (MEDict468).

Do not look for the glottis, in Fig.1.2. Speech Organs. It is not shown. It is the opening or space between the vocal cords at the upper part of the larynx (or voice box). Instead, you should look for the epiglottis which is the thin elastic cartilaginous structure located at the root of the tongue that folds over the glottis to prevent food and liquid from entering the trachea during the act of swallowing.

UKT: See the anatomical details of the mouth, Fig. 994, on the right from The Mouth, by Henry Gray (18251861),  Anatomy of the Human Body, 1918. http://www.bartleby.com/107/242.html 071112. Click on the figure to enlarge FIG. 994 Sagittal section of nose mouth, pharynx, and larynx.

The presence or absence of obstructions in the path of the airstream modifies the nature of the sound produced. By classifying the different types of obstructions that are possible, articulatory phonetics distinguishes the sound classes, such as <velars>, <palatals>, <retroflex>, <alveolars/dentals> and <bilabials> in IPA, and their respective equivalents <gutturals> , <palatals>, <cerebrals>, <dentals> and <labials> by Eastern linguists.

All the above sound classes are consonantal sounds. They are classified by the POA in the mouth cavity. where the active articulator is the tongue. All the three parts of the tongue, the apex (the tip), the dorsum (the middle), and the root (the rear) can participate in articulation of consonants. However, the tongue-tip is the most active of all. The figures on the right show how the two contrastive consonants, {ka.} /k/ and {ta.} /t/, are produced.
   It should be expected that there would be a slight difference in pronunciation of {ka.} (described as gutteral) and English /k/ (described as velar). Similarly we should expect some difference in pronunciation between {ta.} (described as dental) and English /t/ (described alveolar). However, what is usually described as dental /s/ is quite different from interdental /θ/. Burmese-Myanmar {sa.} in the onset has the pronunciation /s/, but in the coda it is /c/, e.g. {ic~sa} /θɪc.sa/. In this respect, {sa.} is similar to <c> in <success> /sɘk'ses/ (DJPD16-515). I have been wondering if the pronunciation is really /sɘk'ses/, in which case we can say that {sa.} and <c> are the same.

For a small number of articulations, the airstream does not originate in the lungs, but rather from outside. The "ingressive" airstream mechanism produces sound through inhalation. A speech sound can also be generated from a difference in pressure of the air inside and outside a resonator. In the case of the oral cavity, this pressure difference can be created without using the lungs at all (producing clicks, for example).

Ingressive adj. 3. Linguistics Of, designating, or being a speech sound produced with an inhalation of breath. -- AHTD
UKT: The "antonym" of ingressive, "egressive" is not found in AHTD.

Uvula is almost the farthest we can look into the mouth. The consonantal sounds are produced between it and the lips. Now where are the vowels produced? They are produced deeper down in the throat, in the larynx -- in areas which we cannot see. We can feel the vocal folds vibrating (by lighting touching the area of the Adams apple) while vowels are produced (except in languages which have voiceless vowels). In both Burmese-Myanmar and in English the vowels are all voiced. We can feel them being produced. But exactly where and how they were produced were not known until some decades ago. And much of that knowledge has come from the field of surgery.

Contents of this page

UKT notes

anatomy of the nasal cavity

From: http://health.ucsd.edu/specialties/surgery/otolaryngology/nasal/anatomy.htm 101105

The nose can be thought of as a tunnel with an opening on the face and an opening at the top of the throat. The tunnel is called the nasal cavity. The nasal cavity is divided into a right and a left side by a bony and cartilaginous divider called the nasal septum. Towards the front of the nose the septum is constructed primarily of cartilage but in its back is primarily bone. The top of the nasal cavity is divided from the anterior cranial cavity by a bone called the cribiform plate. The lateral walls abut on either side with the maxillary bones also known as the cheek bones. The floor of the nasal cavity is separated from the top of the mouth by the palatal bones.

All the nasal cavity bony surfaces are lined by tissue called mucosa. This mucosa contains blood vessels, nerves, and small glands (these glands secrete fluids into the nasal cavity). The mucosa supports small hair-like projections called cilia. These cilia carry the mucous blanket from the front of your nose to the back, and from the sinuses out into the nose, and then into the back of your nose from whence the mucous is swallowed. This is a very complex and important function. It is called the mucociliary transport system, and is the key to a healthy nose. Protruding into the nasal cavity on either side are three small bones called turbinates and as you will learn under the section on physiology, these act as air conditioners and filters for normal respiration. At the very top of the nose the nerves responsible for conducting information about smell enter into the nasal cavity through a series of very small holes in the cribiform plate. On the nasal cavity side of the cribiform plate is a very special mucosal lining called olfactory epithelium. It is here that the sensory cells for smell detect the various odors, and it is here that these cells form the nerves that then course through the cribiform plate to the olfactory centers within the brain. The nose is also supplied by nerves capable of detecting pain, temperature and pressure. These are called sensory nerves. The main sensory nerve supplying the nasal cavity is the trigeminal nerve.

Contained within the facial bones and surrounding the nasal cavity are a system of air cells called paranasal sinuses. The paranasal sinuses include the maxillary sinuses, the ethmoid sinuses, the sphenoid sinus, and the frontal sinuses. The sinuses are all lined by the same mucosa that lines the nasal cavity. The paranasal sinuses all communicate with the nasal cavity by a series of small holes called ostia.

Go back anatomy-nasal-cavity-note-b

Contents of this page


From: Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aspiration_(phonetics) download 070911

In phonetics, aspiration is the strong burst of air that accompanies either the release or, in the case of preaspiration, the closure of some obstruents (Burmese-Myanmar consonants of r1, r4, r5, excluding the nasals). To feel or see the difference between aspirated and unaspirated sounds, one can put a hand or a lit candle in front of his or her mouth, and say <tore> ([ɔɹ]) (sound of {hta.}) and then <store> ([stɔɹ]) (sound of {ta.}. One should either feel a puff of air or see a flicker of the candle flame with <tore> that one does not get with <store>. In English, the <t> should be aspirated in <tore> and unaspirated in <store>.

UKT: English-speaking Myanmars (I was included at one time) are not aware that the native-English speakers, pronounce the Bur-Myan c1 consonants as c2. Thus:
   The pronunciations of <k> in <kin> /kɪn/ (DJPD16-300) and in <skin> /skɪn/ (DJPD16-491) are different. <k> in <kin> is "aspirated" and sounds like {hka.}, but in <skin> it is un-aspirated and sounds like {ka.}.
Similarly, <p> in <pin> /pɪn/ (DJPD16-413) is aspirated (sound of {hpa.}), but <p> in <spin> /spɪn/ is not (sound of {pa.}.

The diacritic for aspiration in the IPA is a superscript "h", [ʰ] . Unaspirated consonants are not normally marked explicitly, but there is a diacritic for non-aspiration in the Extended IPA, the superscript equal sign, [ ⁼ ].

Voiceless consonants are produced with the vocal cords open. (Voicing involves bringing the vocal cords close together.) Voiceless aspiration occurs when the vocal cords remain open after a consonant is released. An easy way to measure this is by noting the consonant's VOT (Voice Onset Time), as the voicing of a following vowel cannot begin until the vocal cords close. However, aspirated consonants are not always followed by vowels or other voiced sounds; indeed, in Eastern Armenian, aspiration is contrastive even at the ends of words:

Final aspiration in E. Armenian:
[bard͡z] (pillow) (UKT: /z/ equated to {za.} -- expecting input from my peers)
[bart͡s⁼] (difficult) (UKT: /s⁼/ equated to {sa.}  -- expecting input from my peers)
[bart͡sʰ] (high) (UKT: /sʰ/ equated ot {hsa.}  -- expecting input from my peers)

English vl. stop consonants are aspirated for most native speakers [{the word "native speakers" used by Wikipedia is misleading. For our purpose I would use the Indic and Myanmar speakers}] when they are word-initial [{disyllabic word}] or begin a stressed syllable, as in <pen>, <ten>, <Ken>. They are un-aspirated for almost all speakers when immediately following word-initial <s>, as in <spun>, <stun>, <skunk>. After <s> elsewhere in a word they are normally un-aspirated as well, except when the cluster is heteromorphemic and the stop belongs to an unbound morpheme; compare dis[t]end vs. dis[tʰ]aste. Word-final vl. stops optionally aspirate.

UKT: That "Word-final vl. stops optionally aspirate" does not hold for Burmese-Myanmar. For example, in {kak} both the onset and the coda {ka.} are [k] not [kʰ]. However for reverse transcription we have to deviate a little from the usual Romabama rules. Thus, if we are to transcribe English <cat> [kʰtʰ] it would be {hkakt}. However, since the use of more than one killed consonant is not allowed by Burmese-Myanmar phonotactics, we might have to use to show that it is loan word.

In many languages, such as the Chinese languages, Hindi, Icelandic, Korean, Thai, and Ancient Greek, [p⁼ t⁼ k⁼] etc. and [pʰ tʰ kʰ] etc. are different phonemes altogether. (UKT: In Burmese-Myanmar and Indic languages c1 and c2 aksharas are different phonemes.

Alemannic German dialects have unaspirated [p⁼ t⁼ k⁼] as well as aspirated [pʰ tʰ kʰ]; the latter series are usually viewed as consonant clusters. In Danish and most southern varieties of German, the "lenis" consonants transcribed for historical reasons as <b d g> are distinguished from their "fortis" counterparts <p t k> mainly in their lack of aspiration.

UKT: In Bur-Myan, c1 and c2 {wag}-aksharas cannot be made into {ha.hto:} conjuncts (consonant clusters) by joining with {ha.}, whereas the nasals {nga.} , {a.} , {Na.} , {na.} , {ma.} can form conjuncts with {ha.} to form what are termed by some Western phoneticians as voiceless nasals: {ngha.} {ha.} {Nha.} {nha.} {mha.} . See Vowels and Consonants by Peter Ledefoged , Univ. California LA - the very table which had perplexed my wife Daw Thanthan and I as we were attempting to learn phonetics while we were in Deep River, Ontario, Canada, in the late 1990s. We were starting to learn IPA and were still unfamiliar with the diacritics. Listening to sound online and using our knowledge of Burmese, we could make out the basic aksharas. We could make out only one, dubbed /mȃ/ 'lift up', as {ma.} as the basic akshara of the Bur-Myan akshara matrix. What Ladefoged had termed "voiceless nasals" were {ha.hto:} conjuncts which would not be included in the akshara matrix. Listen to all the sound files downloaded from the webpage.
  Voiceless (vl.): 'from' {mha.} 2<)), 'nasal' {nha} 4<)), 'considerate' {ha} 8<)), 'borrow' {ngha:} 6<))
  Voiced (vd.) : 'lift up' {ma.} 1<)), 'pain' {na} 3<)), 'right' {a} 7<)), 'fish' {nga:} 5<))

UKT personal note: One noted British linguist wrote to me a few years back that the Burmese language was one of the least understood: perhaps only as an example of "voiceless nasals". He like Ladefoged had failed to understand that Burmese nasals are voiced. What they are referring to are the medials - modified speech sounds brought about by {ha.hto:} formation. When I realized later that he was getting interested not only in the Burmese language but politics as well, I had to stop communicating with him even though I have high regards for him as a linguist.

Icelandic has pre-aspirated [ʰp ʰt ʰk]; some scholars interpret these as consonant clusters as well. Preaspirated stops also occur in some Sami languages; e.g. in Skolt Sami the unvoiced stop phonemes [p, t, c, k] are pronounced preaspirated [ʰp, ʰt. ʰc. ʰk] when they occur in medial or final position.

There are degrees of aspiration. Armenian and Cantonese have aspiration that lasts about as long as English aspirated stops, as well as unaspirated stops like Spanish. Korean has lightly aspirated stops that fall between the Armenian and Cantonese unaspirated and aspirated stops, as well as strongly aspirated stops whose aspiration lasts longer than that of Armenian or Cantonese. (See voice onset time.) An old IPA symbol for light aspiration was [ ʻ ] (that is, like a rotated ejective symbol), but this is no longer commonly used. There is no specific symbol for strong aspiration, but [ʰ] can be iconically doubled for, say, Korean *[kʻ ] vs. *[kʰʰ]. Note however that Korean is nearly universally transcribed as [k] vs. [kʰ], with the details of voice onset time given numerically.

Aspiration also varies with POA. Spanish /p t k/, for example, have voice onset times (VOTs) of about 5, 10, and 30 milliseconds, whereas English /p t k/ have VOTs of about 60, 70, and 80 ms. Korean has been measured at 20, 25, and 50 ms for /p t k/ and 90, 95, and 125 for /pʰ tʰ kʰ/.

The word 'aspiration' and the aspiration symbol is sometimes used with voiced stops, such as [dʰ]. AK However, such "voiced aspiration", also known as breathy voice or murmur, is less ambiguously transcribed with dedicated diacritics, either [d̤] or [dʱ]. (Some linguists restrict the subscript diacritic [  ̤] to sonorants, such as vowels and nasal consonants, which are murmured throughout their duration, and use the superscript [ʱ] for the murmured release of obstruents.) When it is included as aspiration, voiceless aspiration is called just that to avoid ambiguity.

Go back aspiration-note-b

Contents of this page

faucal pillars

From Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pillars_of_the_fauces 071029

faucal pillars (pillars of the fauces) can refer to
Palatoglossal arch or glossopalatine arch
Palatopharyngeal arch  or pharyngopalatine arch80309

The palatoglossal arch (glossopalatine arch, anterior pillar of fauces) on either side runs downward, lateralward, and forward to the side of the base of the tongue, and is formed by the projection of the Glossopalatinus with its covering mucous membrane.
-- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palatoglossal_arch download 071029

UKT: In the text, it is stated "The palatoglossus forms the forward arch of the faucal pillars." Click on the figure to enlarge. Note: in the pix, palatoglossus is labeled "Glossopalatine arch".

The palatopharyngeal arch (pharyngopalatine arch, posterior pillar of fauces) is larger and projects farther toward the middle line than the anterior; it runs downward, lateralward, and backward to the side of the pharynx, and is formed by the projection of the Pharyngopalatinus, covered by mucous membrane.
-- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palatopharyngeal_arch 071029
Pix on right: The mouth cavity: the cheeks have been slit transversely and the tongue pulled forward. (Pharyngopalatine arch labeled at upper right.)

Go back faucal pillars-wiki-b

Contents of this page


UKT: based on Felicity Cox, The Acoustic Characteristics of Nasals, Consonant Acoustics, in Speech Science Resource Pages, Macquarie Univ., Australia, http://www.ling.mq.edu.au/speech/acoustics/consonants/nasalweb.html 071115

Nasality is above all else an auditory phenomenon (that is, the way you hear) and not primarily an articulatory one able to be specified in terms of the position of the velum.

Nasality is a special condition of resonance. The auditory impression of nasality is the result of resonance in a cul-de-sac resonator.

A cul-de-sac resonator is a chamber opening off from the passageway through which a sound is resonated and sent to the outer air. In the production of nasal consonants, the oral tract becomes the cul-de-sac. In nasalised segments, the nasal cavity is the side chamber.

In normal speech production the velum does not completely close off the pharyngeal passage to the nose, and the degree of velic opening is variable. It has been found that the perception of a sound as nasalised will depend on the ratio of the sizes of the two openings into the nasal cavity and the oral cavity. When the nasal port is large relative to the oral port then nasality will be perceived.

The type of phoneme that is produced during speech will affect the height of the velum. The following is a progression from highest to lowest. The highest velum position means the nasal passage is closed, whilst the lowest velum position means, the nasal passage is opened to maximum. I have given Burmese-Myanmar aksharas as examples:

[Velum height highest or the nasal passage tightly closed or the least sonourous]
Vl. stops {ka.} [k]  >> Vd. stops {ga.} [g] >>
Vl. fricatives {a.} [θ]  >> Vd. fricatives {a.} [] >>
Oral close vowels { i } [i]  >> Oral open vowels {a} [a] >>
Nasalised close vowels {awn}/{un}  >> Nasalised open vowels {an} >>
Nasal segments {n}
[Velum height lowest or the nasal passage the most open or the most sonorous]

"/k/ and /g/ are one of the pairs of consonants said to be distinguished from each other by being 'fortis' or 'lenis' rather than voiced or voiceless." From DJPD16-575: VELAR consonants
The last {n} is not present in English: the nearest is [ʌn]. You may not agree with me in my examples of nasalised vowels. -- I am waiting for comments from my peers in Myanmar.
The nasals and vowels are all voiced. In this respect, Burmese and English are similar.

Go back nasality-note-b

Contents of this page

End of TIL file