Update: 2013-08-16 04:58 PM +0630


The Human Voice


by Joe K. Tun (aka U Kyaw Tun), M.S. (I.P.S.T., U.S.A.). Not for sale. Prepared for students of TIL Computing and Language Center, Yangon, MYANMAR.

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Contents of this page

Modal voice -- the "normal" voice
Laryngeal characteristics of modal voice -- spectrograms
POAs for {sa.} and <c> -- comparison of Burmese and English
POA for {sa.} as a sibilant
POA for {tha.}/{a.} as a thibilant
Representating r6c5 akshara across Indic languages and Burmese-Myanmar

Passages worthy of note:

UKT note
formants of different settings fricative pitch-register language (Burmese) Runes or Magic Squares sibilant  spirant thibilant

Contents of this page

Modal voice

The term "modal voice" is applied to what we would normally describe as a "normal voice" neither short nor long, or something else. If we had used the word "normal" it could imply that others were "abnormal". And thus instead of describing a speech or a segment as normal, the term "modal" was adopted.

Burmese-Myanmar was described as a tonal language with 3 tones. It was then changed to four. Again it was said to be a pitch-register language. The first time I came across this word, it was "register" which was confusing because this term "register" is also used in vocal music. Later, I found that, in linguistic the term can be modified as "pitch-register" -- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Register_(phonology) 080316. And so, I will describe Burmese-Myanmar as a pitch-register language, with three pitch-registers or registers for short.

I eventually found out what the linguists have been referring to. They are {a. a a:} the 3 basic vowels, and vowels followed by "killed" consonants -- {a.t}. And then, Burmese-Myanmar is said to have a creaky register (creaky tone). So, my task was to find out what a register language was, and to pin down what was meant by creaky register or pitch-register. Since, the creaky register being referred to is just a sound segment, what I had want to listen was just a segment: but what I could get online was a whole sentence.

My conclusions (080324) based on what you will be reading in this section:

{a.} -- the creaky tone is extra-short [ă]
{a} -- the medial [a] is of medium length
{a:} -- made up of two segments [a] and [ː] (or [aː]) is long and empathic
The so-called "tone #4" is a rime where a checked vowel is followed by a "killed" (or an {a.t}) consonant ,
   e.g. {ak} = [k]

{ i. } -- the creaky tone is extra-short [ ĭ ]
{ i } -- the medial [ i ] of medium length
{ i: } -- made up of two segments
[i] and [ː] (or [iː]) is long and empathic
The correspondent of "tone #4" is a special case where the checked vowel is followed by killed {ca.} represented by {c},
   e.g. {ic} (I am waiting for comments from my peers)

{u.} -- the creaky tone is extra-short [ŭ]
{u} -- the medial [u] of medium length
{u:} -- made up of two segments
[u] and [ː] (or [uː]) is long and empathic
The correspondent of "tone #4" is a special case where the checked vowel [ʌ]/[ʊ] followed by a "killed" (or an {a.t}) consonant.

The following are downloaded sound files [click on <)) ] from:
EGG and Voice quality
, http://www.ims.uni-stuttgart.de/phonetik/EGG/page10.htm 071115
Modal voice <))
Creaky voice <)) 
Breathy voice <)) 
Whisper <))
Harsh voice <)) 
Falsetto <)) 
Pharyngalized voice <)) . See pharyngalization in my notes.  
Nasalized voice  <)) 

The jaw positions also influence the voice:
Protruded jaw <)) 
Retraced jaw <))
Open jaw <))

The following is from: EGG and Voice quality:
"The neutral mode of phonation is modal voiced phonation. In the normal case the vibration of the vocal folds is periodic with full closing of glottis, so no audible friction noises are produced when air flows through the glottis. All muscular adjustments are on a moderate level and the frequency of vibration, as well as loudness are in the lower to mid part of the range normally used in conversation. The modal phonation of a male speaker occurs at an average of 120 Hz, while for a female speaker it is approx. 220 Hz. For voiced sounds the glottis is closed or nearly closed, whereas for voiceless sounds it is wide open, actually the distance between the folds amount to only a fraction of a milimeter. The degree of opening and its timing is relative to the articulatory gestures and depends on the phonetic environment of a generated sound. The average flow rate is between 100 and 350 cc/s. " -- http://www.ims.uni-stuttgart.de/phonetik/EGG/page10.htm 071028.
[{According to J. Laver (1980), p109,  modal is a term introduced by Hollien in 1974 (On vocal registers, Journal of Phonetics, vol.2, pp.125-143. }]

Let's remind ourselves what I am after: the modal pitch-register (or tone), and other pitch-registers. Since, I don't clearly understand (as a person whose L1 is Burmese) what it is all about, I have given below is what Laver has given in his The Phonetic Description of Voice Quality. Eventually, I will rewrite this whole section. I am sincerely looking forward to what my peers would say on my conclusion given above.

It may well be that the type of phonation discussed by Laver under 'modal voice' should be differentiated into at least two sub-types corresponding to what are called 'chest voice' and 'head voice'. But it will be assumed in what follows that the type of phonation involved in 'modal voice' essentially corresponds to the 'chest voice' register, to the extent that different workers seem to agree on aspects of its production.

UKT: The term register is also used in vocal music. The following is an excerpt from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Head_register#Head_voice_and_vocal_registration 080320
   "One prevailing practice within vocal pedagogy is to divide both men and women's voices into three registers. Men's voices are divided into "chest register", "head register", and "falsetto register" and woman's voices into "chest register", "middle register", and "head register". "Such pedagogists teach that the head register is a vocal technique used in singing to describe the resonance of singing something feeling to the singer as if it is occurring in their head. It's mentioned in the Speech Level Singing method used in some singing. According to an early 20th century book written by David Clippinger, all voices have a head register, whether bass or soprano. "

To differentiate the term "register" used in linguistics from that used in vocal music, I prefer the term "pitch-register".

 The following is an excerpt from Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Register_(phonology) 080320
   "In linguistics, a register language, also known as a pitch-register language, is a language which combines tone and vowel phonation into a single phonological system. Burmese and the Chinese dialect Shanghainese are examples. Burmese is often considered a tonal language, but differences in relative pitch are correlated with vowel phonation, so that neither exists independently.
   " There are three such registers in Burmese, which have traditionally been considered three of the four 'tones'. (The fourth is not a tone at all, but a closed syllable, called " entering tone" in translations of Chinese phonetics). Jones (1986) views the differences as:
   resulting from the intersection of both pitch registers and voice registers []
   Clearly Burmese is not tonal in the same sense as such other languages and
   therefore requires a different concept, namely that of pitch register.

(UKT: The examples given above are: creaky - {la.} IPA [ lă] ; modal - {la} IPA [ la] ; breathy - {la:} IPA [ laː]. I don't agree with the term "breathy". It seems that phoneticians are still having difficulty in describing Burmese language. The following was a table I had constructed about six months ago.)

Khmer [{the Khmer in the country of Myanmar is Mon}] is sometimes not considered to be a register language any more. It's also been called a "restructured register language" because its pitch and phonation can be considered allophonic: If they are ignored, the phonemic distinction remains as a difference in diphthongs and vowel length.

1. Robert Jones, 1986. Pitch register languages, pp 135-136, in John McCoy & Timothy Light eds., Contributions to Sino-Tibetan Studies
2. James Matisoff, 2001. Prosodic Diffusibility in South-East Asia, pp. 309-310. In Aleksandra Aikhenvald and Robert Dixon, Areal Diffusion and Genetic Inheritance, OUP.


Contents of this page

Laryngeal characteristics of modal voice

UKT: This section is based on The Phonetic Description of Voice quality, by John Laver, Cambridge Univ. Press, 1980, p.109-118.

The laryngeal characteristics of modal voice, as the neutral mode of phonation, are reasonably well agreed. Catford (1964: 32) says that the full glottis is involved, 'both ligamental and cartilaginous, functioning as a single unit'. Laver also mentioned the following workers:
Fant (1960: 269) citing Chiba and Kajiyama (1958)
Van den Berg (1968: 297)

The production of modal voice is thus carried out with only moderate adductive tension (AT) and moderate medial compression (MC), with moderate longitudinal tension (LT) when the fundamental frequency is in the lower part of the range used in ordinary conversation. The vibration of the larynx in this condition is regularly periodic, efficient in producing vibrations, and without audible friction brought on by incomplete closure of the glottis. A laryngogram of modal voice is included in Fig.17, and a spectrogram in Fig.18.

During phonation, the opening of the adult male glottis has been described by Fant as having the following dimensions

The glottis slit has an effective length of the order of 12 mm in the chest register and the maximal width is of the order of 2.5 mm at a moderate voice effort. The depth of the passage in the direction of the air stream that comes into contact during the closed phase is of the order of 2-5 mm. (Fant 1960: 266)

The acoustic characteristics of modal voice, as the neutral laryngeal setting, have already been given in Chapter 1, The Basic analytical concepts, p012-022, is a source information on the relationship between various settings.

From Laver, p.14-15
   "The neutral setting of the vocal organs is more properly to be thought of as a constellation of co-occurring settings at different locations in the vocal apparatus, each of which constitutes the neutral settings at that location. This constellation of neutral settings has the following specifications [{the numbering is mine}]:
01. - the lips are not protruded
02. - the larynx is neither raised nor lowered
03. - the supralaryngeal vocal tract is most nearly in equal cross-section along its full length
04. - front oral articulations are performed by the blade of the tongue
05. - the root of the tongue is neither advanced nor retracted
06. - the faucal pillars do not constrict the vocal tract
07. - the pharyngeal constrictor muscles do not constrict the vocal tract
08. - the jaw is neither closed nor unduly open
09. - the use the velopharyngeal system causes audible nasality only where necessary for linguistic purposes
10. - the vibration of the true vocal folds is regularly periodic, efficient in air use, without audible friction, with the folds in full glottal vibration under moderate longitudinal tension, moderate adductive tension and moderate medial compression (van den Berg 1968)
11. - overall muscular tension throughout the vocal apparatus is neither high nor low.
   "Each setting can then be contrasted with at least one of these requirements."
The section also gives the F1, F2, and F3 formants of different settings .

Having outlined the characteristics of modal voice, we can now move on to the description of other phonatory settings, and their various possibilities of combination.

Each of the major phonatory settings will be discussed individually, but there are two criteria by which they can be grouped into categories, and the classification of the different settings into these categories reveals some useful generalities that might be lost sight of in a simple, sequential listing. The description of the different phonatory settings will be prefaced, therefore, by an outline of the classification.

The two criteria of classification can be expressed as questions. Firstly, 'Can the phonation type occur alone, as a simple type?', and secondly, 'Can the phonation type occur in combination with other phonation types, as a compound type, and if so, with which?'

On this basis, there are three different categories involved.

UKT: The following paragraphs are important for me in describing voicing, and also for my work on Burmese-Myanmar medials and {a.t}/{a.tht}. Accordingly, I have reformatted the paragraphs to aid my understanding. I have also numbered the compound voices formed. The reader is advised to refer to the original pdf file.

The first category is made up of modal voice and falsetto.
The qualification for membership of this category is that they can each occur alone, as simple types, and can individually combine with members of other groups, as compound types, but not with each other.

The second category consists of whisper and creak.
These can occur alone, as simple types, and together as a compound type, to give :
1. whispery creak.
They can also occur as compound types with either member of the first group, giving :
1. whispery voice and 2. whispery falsetto; and 3. creaky voice and 4. creaky falsetto ;
and they can occur as compound types with members of the first group and with each other, giving :
1. whispery creaky voice and 2. whispery creaky falsetto.
[UKT: I am now beginning to see that the word "creak" given above is not the same as the pitch-register given as "creak". I would describe the "creak" here as {ak-n} or "cracking voice".]

[UKT: The third category is made up of harshness and breathiness.]
The third category is formed by modificatory settings which can only occur in compound types of phonation, and never by themselves as simple types. These are harshness and breathiness.

UKT: note that Laver does not use the terms harsh voice and breathy voice here. But he does use the term in the next paragraph. The term breathy voice is used by other authors, e.g., http://www.ims.uni-stuttgart.de/phonetik/EGG/page8.htm download 071026. The Stuttgart author cites Gujarati for "modal voice vs breathy voice" (contrast between vowels), and Indo-Aryan languages (contrast between voice stops).

Harshness can combine with modal voice and with falsetto, to produce :
1. harsh voice and 2. harsh falsetto.
Breathiness can only combine modal voice, to give breathy voice;
the reasons for the incompatibility of falsetto and breathiness will be explored later.
Harshness and breathiness cannot combine with the phonation types from the second category, whisper and creak and whispery creak, unless there is member form the first category, either modal voice or falsetto, also present. Because the mutual compound products of this category of settings are thus :
1. harsh whispery voice, 2. harsh whispery falsetto, 3. harsh creaky voice, 4. harsh creaky falsetto, 5. harsh whispery creaky voice, and 6. harsh whispery creaky falsetto.

The omissions of nominal possibilities from the above list, such as breathy falsetto, are to be explained by either redundant or conflicting acoustic requirements, or by conflicting physiological requirements. A tentative physiological explanation will be advanced in terms of mutually exclusive specification of the phonatory settings involved on one or more of the three muscular parameters of longitudinal tension, adductive tension and medial compression, as indicated earlier. It is important to emphasize the tentative nature of this proposed explanation: it is offered here as a physiological hypothesis that emerges from the wide range of laryngeal research cited. The attractiveness of the hypothesis is clear: the auditoryily-observed compatibility and incompatibility of the various different phonatory settings in compound phonation is given a physiological basis. But the hypothesis must be subjected to empirical test by physiological research before it can be elevated to the status of a reliable explanation.

UKT: Remember that in medial formation, the medial formers {ya. ra. la. wa. ha.} all belong to the {a.wag}-consonants. In the case of {ya. wa.}, they are considered to be "semi-vowels" and the medial formation can be explained easily by considering them as vowels.
  {ka.} + {a.t} + {ya.} --> {kya.}
#  {kya.} + {ka.} + {a.t} --> {kyak} with the vowel sound /k/
#  {kya.} + {pa.} + {a.t} --> {kyp} with the vowel sound /ʌp/

My task is to explain why the vowel sound has changed from // to /ʌ/, and how to show this in Romabama. Showing in Romabama means I cannot use /ʌ/ because it is not an ASCII character: I now use {}. If I were to let Romabama be just a transliteration, I would not have to explain the vowel change. And, I will also have to explain why {ka.} is not allowed to have a {ha.hto:}.

There is one sub-category that should be mentioned, and it is a subcategory of the harshness setting. This is the setting where the ventricular folds become involved in the phonation of the true vocal folds by squeezing closed the ventricle of Morgani and pressing down on the true vocal folds, with the effect that the true and the ventricular folds combine to vibrate as more massive, composite elements. In order to bring the ventricular folds to this position, a high degree of muscular tension is needed, and the effect is normally to make phonation auditorily very harsh. Ventricular voice will therefore, be used in the descriptive system, but only as a synonym for 'extremely harsh voice'. The use of the label 'ventricular' is physiologically explicit, but not enough is yet known about phonation with the ventricular folds, in terms of combinatorial possibilities, to give ventricular phonation independent status as a separate phonation type.

Contents of this page

POAs for {sa.} and <c>

You will remember that in a previous chapter, I have described the Burmese-Myanmar consonant {sa.}/{ca.} as having two sounds: in the onset a hisser (a true fricative -- a term I have adopted from UNIL) {sa.}, and, in the coda a palatal stop {c}. Here you will see that the English <c> is similar to {sa.}/{ca.}. It has two sounds: a hisser [s] and a stop [k] (a velar stop). However, since the POAs velar and palatal are close together, I have suggested that the English <c> in the coda is really a palatal stop.

Let's start from what we can all accept. Both {sa.}/{ca.} of Burmese-Myanmar and <c> of English-Latin are graphemes or glyphs. Though Burmese-Myanmar is a phonemic script whilst English is not, if only we are to go by the English pronunciation as given in DJPD16, we would be able to compare the two. {sa.} seems to have two pronunciations [s] and [c] depending on whether it is an onset or a coda in a syllable. As example being {ic~sa} where the two {sa.}s are written as a vertical conjunct.

The English grapheme <c> seems to be behaving exactly like {sa.}/{ca.} as can be seen in pronunciation of the consonant digraph <cc>. According to DJPD16-p88:

"The consonant diagraph <cc> has two pronunciations: /ks/ and /k/ .

<accident> /ˈk.sɪ.dənt/

UKT: <cc> can be viewed as similar to a vertical ligature, and <accident> may be transcribed as {ak~hsi-ding.}. See below.

"In most other situations, <cc> is pronounced as /k/ , e.g.:

<acclaim>  /ˈəkˈleɪm/

" In addition
The word <flaccid> has two possible pronunciations,

<flaccid>  /ˈflk.sɪd/ , /ˈfls.ɪd/

Words borrowed from Italian may have /ʧ/ , e.g.:

<cappuccino>  /ˌkp.ʊˈʧiː.nəʊ/  (US)  /-əˈʧiː.noʊ/"

This shows that the coda <c> is a stop whilst the onset <c> is a fricative. There is no controversy on the pronunciation of the onset <c>: it is /s/.

It is on the pronunciation of coda <c>, that there seems to be a mistake because of our usual understanding that "there is no palatal /c/ in English". Since the POAs of palatal and velar are quite close, it is possible that phoneticians have mistakenly identified the pronunciation of <c> as /k/ (velar) instead of /c/ (palatal). If we can accept this proposition, we can say that {sa.} and <c> are exactly the same.

Contents of this page

POA for {sa.} as a sibilant

Note: In this section I am going to represent {a.} as {tha.} to make the comparison to English <th> easier.

The Burmese-Myanmar {sa.}/{ca.} has the pronunciation IPA [s] in the onset. Now what about {tha.}? What is its exact pronunciation? (Remember that these two graphemes occupy the r2c1 (palatal stop of the well-defined {wag}-group) and r6c5 (dental fricative of the ill-defined {a.wag}-group) positions akshara matrix. In the IPA table on the right, the POAs are also quite far apart.

We know that {tha.} is exactly like the English digraph <th> which in Old English is 'thorn' <>. The English <th> has two pronunciations [θ] (vl.) and [] (vd.) as in:

<thin> /θɪn/ and <that> /t/ comparable to:
{tha-ya} pronounced as IPA [θa ja]. and {nn.tha} [nn a].

Our problem lies in the area bounded by blue line:
<t> , <th> , and <s>. If you look at the figures showing the positions of the tongue in articulating the three phonemes (without looking into allophones), you will see that the three can be mixed up easily across languages, such as Burmese, English and Hindi (written in Devanagari).

In Hindi-Devanagari, the transcription <th> stands for थ (U0925) which is equivalent to Burmese-Myanmar {hta.} with pronunciation [tʰ]. For example, the Buddhist religion of Myanmar, Theravada {ht-ra.wa-da.}, is pronounced with a {hta.} [tʰ] and not with {tha.} [θ].

Note that the problem with Hindi transcription Th is also due to the failure to recognize the so-called allophones of /t/, IPA [t] and [tʰ], are separate phonemes in Hindi त and थ, and in Myanmar {ta.} and {hta.}.

The problem between Burmese and Hindi is also due to the perception of Hindi speakers of the akshara r6c5 as [s] instead of [θ].

 In our email exchanges, Dr. Zev Handel (Univ. of Washington) (the author of Rethinking the medials of Old Chinese: Where are the r's, http://faculty.washington.edu/zhandel/Handel_r.pdf 080310, first downloaded in Aug 2007 -- see Handel_r in LibRB4M), informed me of his view that in the old days, Burmese-Myanmar {tha.} probably has the pronunciation /s/. (We had a number of email exchanges, and I must thank Zev for explaining many things to me.) Eventually, he conceded that only a few world's languages has the /θ/. And I insisted that Burmese is one of those languages. In his paper on Rethinking the medials of Chinese, from page 9 onwards, Dr. Handel gave (comparing with Old Chinese) a list of Burmese words among which is:

cac  war, battle , and
*sat  'kill'

These words from the given meanings are:

{sic} IPA [sɪc] , and
{tht} IPA [θʌt] .

When I suggested to Dr. Handel that he had probably made a mistake in giving the transcription of as /s/, he responded:

"You are absolutely correct about the values of the Burmese letters in modern Rangoon pronunciation.  The transcriptions in my article, however, reflect our best understanding of the values that the letters had at the time the script was devised or soon thereafter.  Because of pronunciation changes over time, the modern pronunciations of many letters are quite different from their ancient pronunciations.  Since I am interested in reconstructing ancient pronunciations of the ancestor language of Chinese, Tibetan, and Burmese, I start from the oldest known pronunciations, those reflected in early written Burmese texts.
   "The transcription I used is one of several semi-standardized transcriptions of ancient Written Burmese pronunciation.
   "Historically, the older sounds /c ch s/ (or perhaps /ts tsh s/) have developed into modern /s hs th/ respectively (where "th" represents the voiceless interdental fricative, the <th> sound of English "think", written in International Phonetic Alphabet with the Greek letter theta)."

Here, I must add that my conjecture is Burmese was not descended from Old Chinese, but that it with other Tibeto-Burmese languages were descended from an ancient language related to the ancestor of Britannic languages. (If you insist that my position is far fetch, I must agree.) My conjecture is based on the common beliefs in the runes (which must be pronounced precisely as handed down from the master to the pupil) and also because of the pronunciation of a common dietary word, the word for <salt>: {hsa:} IPA[sʰaː].  In ancient Pyu language of Myanmar <salt> is probably {ka:}. See Modern-day salt production at the ancient Pyu city of Halin, http://acl.arts.usyd.edu.au/~hudson/halin_salt_nyo_win.pdf 080310.

Now we go to another source of the problem of pronunciation of {a.}. The problem here is not with the English grapheme <c> but with Devanagari [Sa] स (U0938). It is not only with Devanagari that we have the problem, the problem is with the rest of the Indic scripts including one of our nearest neighbours the Bengali [Sa] স (U09B8). This is in spite of the fact that Burmese-Myanmar shares many common pronunciations with Bengali and even in the way of writing split vowels in {au:} and {au}.

ো (U09CB) and ৌ (U09CC) - Bengali
- Burmese-Myanmar

Are they spirants, thibilants, sibilants or something else? At the same time, I will be asking: which is more important, speech or script.

The etymologies of <sibilant> and <spirant> have always confused me. The word <sibilant> coming from Latin sībilāns sībilant-, present participle of sībilāre to hiss means that it has a "hissing" sound. Here we must note that in a syllable, the hissing sound can occur at either the beginning or at the end, or even at both. Since, we do not have syllables that end in hissing sound in Burmese-Myanmar, we can say that {sa.} (sound: [s]) is a "sibilant" only in the onset but not in the coda.

Next, we also know that {a.} (commonly transcribed as {tha.} has no hissing sound either in the onset or coda. Thus it may be called a "spirant" or more properly a thibilant. It has the sounds [θ] (vl.) or [] (vd.) in the onset, and [θ] in both onset and coda. E.g. {pai~a} meaning "viss" - a unit of weight.

{a.} (sound: [θ]), together with {ha.} (sound: [h]), can be placed in the IPA table as " fricatives" -- meaning that there is friction involved in producing them. The trouble comes in, when I tried to reconcile Pali-Latin to Pali-Myanmar, because Pali-Latin <c> is equated to {sa.}/{ca.}. That means, we cannot place as {ca.} by the side of {a.}. We have to place as {ca.} as a "palatal stop". That would leave us with the problem of identifying the IPA [s] and [ ʃ ] in Burmese-Myanmar. Now, that has landed me in really deep waters! We will come back to it later.

At present (080325), my position is:

In the coda, the akshara {sa.}/{ca.} is /c/ a palatal stop, not /s/ a dental fricative.
1. Remember, in Burmese-Myanmar the rime of a syllable is of interest: the vowel and the coda must always be taken together. However, in English and other European languages the vowel and the coda consonant may be treated separately. There is no need to differentiate a consonant as an onset or as a coda because they will have the same sound.

2. Remember also that when a vowel is followed by a consonant, it is called a checked vowel and in the vowel quadrilateral it has moved nearer to the central position. Remember also that in Burmese-Myanmar coda-consonant is a "killed" {a-t}-consonant with the {tn-hkwun} sign over it. The as {ca.} is then represented as {c} (without the inherent vowel it has no sound). Therefore, the word (meaning 'to steal') is written as {kic}, with no hissing sound at the end.

3. When an English word such as <kiss> /kɪs/ with in a hissing sound has to be transliterated into Romabama, we have to  show that the end consonant is a sibilant: / {kiss}. Another example is <list> /kɪst/ --> {list}. We must note that in Burmese-Myanmar such a spelling with two killed consonant is not allowed. However, in loan words it may be allowed. (I am waiting input from my Myanmar peers.)

4. {sa.}/{ca.} in the onset is always a dental fricative, and must be represented as {sa.}.

Contents of this page

POA for {tha.}/{a.} as a thibilant

Now we turn our attention to the English digraph <th>. If we take the digraph at face value, the implication is that it is related to <t> and {ta.}. We should note that the phonemes /t/ /θ/ and /s/ are articulated very similarly.

On the right, are two ways in which /t/ can be articulated: dental or alveolar.

Of the three articulations, <th> as an inter-dental is very noticeable in female Canadian TV announcers articulating this sound. In fact, watching them pronouncing their words was how I learn to notice how each TV anchor pronounce her consonants and vowels with lip rounding and jaw movements.

On the left are shown how how [s] is articulated as a "hisser" and [ ʃ ] is articulated as a "husser". The tongue-blade plays an important part. The lip rounding and spreading are also involved. Notice how [θ] is articulated. It is articulated exactly like the hisser [s] but with the tip of tongue drawn slightly outside and placed between the upper and lower teeth. This has led me to describe [θ] as an 'interdental' and not as just 'dental'.

When [θ] is represented with the digraph <th>, it implies that it is some sort of an aspirated <t>. This gives rise to another set of confusion in the affricates such as [ ʧ ] commonly represent by <ch> as in <church> /ʧɜːʧ/. Note that /ɜː/ is a long vowel. (See DJPD16-viii.). <ch> is best represented in Romabama as {hka.ya.ping. ha.hto:}, and it will be treated in a section on Burmese-Myanmar medials. Here, we are just giving the reason why Romabama has to adopt the old English "thorn" <> in place of the common <th>.

However, few would have recognized {a.} as representing {tha.}, as in my wife's name Daw Than Than, and so Romabama will be using both the digraph <th> and <> to represent {tha.}.

As the conclusion of this section, I must say that {sa.} is a palatal stop in the coda, but a sibilant fricative in the onset. The following shows how the IPA palatal plosives and nasal are represented in Burmese-Myanmar as row 2 of the akshara matrix.

Now, with regard to the second question of priority of speech over script (writing), Which is more important? You might even think that I am a fool for asking this question. Of course, when you go to a foreign country, you have to speak to be understood. But if you are trying to find commonality across languages, across cultures, and across peoples, I would say that script is more important than speech. The reason why I came up with the question, to which I have given the above answer, stems from the Eastern Philosophy which holds that script is more important than speech. See:
"Speech Versus Writing" In Derrida and Bhartrhari", by Harold G. Coward, excerpt from Philosophy East and West, vol. 41, no. 2 (1991) pp.141-162. http://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-PHIL/ew95321.htm (download 071115)
Language Teaching Materials for Adult Beginners, by Vivian Cook, http://homepage.ntlworld.com/vivian.c/Writings/Papers/LanTeachMats.htm (download 071115)
The Dogma of the Priority of Speech in Language Teaching, by Vivian Cook. The paper which I downloaded on 011206 is no longer available online. It is in my Linguistics library.

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Representating r6c5 akshara across Indic languages and Burmese-Myanmar

From my studies, I have come to know that there are 3 graphemes related to the sound of [s]. They are placed close together in the Devanagari akshara table: श [Sha] (U0936), ष [Ssa] (U0937), and स [Sa] (U0938). These 3 are preceded by व [Va] (U0935) and followed by ह [Ha] (U0939). A hallmark of the akshara tables is that they can be used to compare sounds across languages, because, the characters (graphemes) are always arranged according to the way the sounds are produced. Working on this property, because in Burmese-Myanmar the order is {wa.} {a.} {ha.}, we can see that one of the three (श [Sha], ष [Ssa], and स [Sa]) corresponds to {a.}. From the transcriptions, I have come to conclude that Devanagari grapheme स [Sa] with the /s/ sound corresponds to Myanmar {a.} with the [θ] sound. Yet, the sounds as heard by the Hindi-Devanagari speakers, and Burmese-Myanmar, are very different. Why is it so?

Before we try to answer that question, let us try to reconcile the Devanagari, English, IPA and the Myanmar tables. If you consult the IPA the table of consonants, you will see that /θ/ and /s/ are fricatives. Remember that in placing the phonemes in a table, the akshara systems follow the direction "interior of the mouth to the exterior". Reversing this to conform to IPA, we have: स [Sa] (U0938), ष [Ssa] (U0937), श [Sha] (U0936). I will now make the bold assumption of correspondence between the following graphemes and IPA phonemes:

Devanagari: स [Sa] (U0938); ष [Ssa] (U0937); श [Sha] (U0936)
   ISCII* for Devanagari: [ sa ] ; [ ṣa ] ; [ śa ]
English: <th> ; <s> ; <sh>
IPA: [θ] ; [s] ; [ ʃ ]
Myanmar: {a.} ; {ya.} (or can it be {ha.}?); {hya.}
   Note that the {ya.} and {ha.} are not allowed by Burmese-Myanmar phonotactics, whereaa {hya.} is.

It is should be noted that MLC has given its preferred glyph for [ ʃ ] as {rha.}. However, it still retains {hya.} for some words such as {U.hyic} (Aegle marmelos fam: Rutaceae). See Myanmar Medicinal Plant Database http://www.tuninst.net/MyanMedPlants/TIL/r7c4a-vow/r7c4a-vow.htm#Uu-thhyis-ping  071220

* ISCII (Indian Script Code for Information Interchange (1991):
http://varamozhi.sourceforge.net/iscii91.pdf download 071109
A note in the pdf document reads:
   "consonants श (śa) ष (ṣa) are pronounced identically today."

Using the above assumption, I have been able to identify the medicinal plant Aristolochia indica (fam. Aristolochiaceae). This Indian plant has the name इसरमूल (according to the learned Myanmar-Buddhist monk Shin Nagathein, the well known writer on Myanmar indigenous medicine). He accordingly transcribes the Indian name इसरमूल to {i.hsar-mul}). If only he had taken note that r6c5 in Devanagari table is स whereas in Myanmar it is {a.} (whatever the pronunciation), he would have transcribed the name as (transcribed {i~a.ra.mu-li} by L-seik-shin 491) -- the Myanmar plant. See Myanmar Medicinal Plant Database, http://www.tuninst.net  You can use either the akshara index or scientific name index. http://www.tuninst.net/MyanMedPlants/TIL/r7c4a-vow/r7c4a-vow.htm#lth-tha-ra-mu-li 071110
(It is unfortunate that Windows XP does not support Myanmar Unicode characters, because of which I have to resort to displaying the Burmese-Myanmar names in .gif pix.)

Because of the closeness of the POA, different ethnic groups can easily pronounce (or mis-pronounce) one for the other, or even within one ethnic group slight differences in pronunciation can occur resulting in different dialects. This is especially true when an element of "h" is involved, because what is conceived to be the same sound can be arrived at by different articulations in throat.

Since the character r6c5 is next to {ha.} (corresponding to ह [Ha]), we can expect to find an element of "h" in its pronunciation. It is not commonly realized that because "h" is produced way back in the throat, its place and its manner of articulation can only be taken up recently. See John Laver's The Phonetic Description of Voice Quality, Cambridge Univ. Press 1980, parts available online: http://www.ling.mq.edu.au/ling/units/sph302/papers/laver_1980_nasal.pdf download 071029 and http://www.ling.mq.edu.au/ling/units/sph302/papers/laver_1980_phonation.pdf  download 071024. Also, The Analysis of Voice Quality in Speech Processing by Eric Keller, Unversit de Lausanne, Switzerland eric.keller@unil.ch www.unil.ch/webdav/site/imm/users/ekeller/public/keller/Keller_04_VoiceQuality.pdf download 071101.

Now, let's side track for some peace of mind. The problem of placing too much emphasis on pronunciation had come to a head in the times of Gautama Buddha. The controversy arose between the Sanskrit-Devanagari speakers (Indo-European) and Pali-Myanmar (Tibeto-Burman) speakers. (Notice that the areas where Buddha was preaching -- the present day Nepal and Bihar -- were populated by Tibeto-Burman speakers). To solve this problem, Buddha decreed a canonical law as mentioned in the research work by Chi Hisen-lin. Chi Hisen-lin, in Language Problem of Primitive Buddhism, Journal of the Burma Research Society, XLIII, i, June 1960 (available online http://www.chibs.edu.tw/publication/LunCong/004/69_90.htm download 070806). More on this in later chapters.

I am quoting his work to show that what we are calling "Pali" in Myanmar might be "Magadhi" itself -- the language in which Gautama Buddha preached. If it is so, we can understand why the Devanagari स [[sa]] (Pali) is different from Myanmar {a.} (Magadhi -- the eastern Magadha language). I hope to find the final answer in a comparative study of Pali-Davanagari and Pali-Myanmar which I intend to take up later, if my age (now 73) would permit.

At the present, there is a controversy between the supporters of Pali-Latin and Pali-Myanmar. To the Pali-Latin supporters, r6c5 {a.} grapheme is <s>, and Pali words with this grapheme must be pronounced as English <s> /s/ (a sibilant). To me, a Pali-Myanmar supporter, it must be pronounced as English <th> /θ/ (an approximant, a non-sibilant voiceless alveolar, and a thibilant). (See thorn in my notes.).

UKT: "The "th" sound is relatively rare in languages of the world." -- personal communication with Zev Handel, Assoc. Prof. of Chinese Language and Linguistics, Univ. of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA. Because of rarity of <th> /θ/ sound, we should be prepared to face misunderstanding on the pronunciation of Burmese-Myanmar {a.}/{tha.} which I insist has the /θ/ sound.

Based on its similarity in pronunciation to English-Latin <s> [s], Burmese-Myanmar {sa.} can be said to be a "sibilant fricative". However because it occupies r2c1, it must be a "stop". Because of this discrepancy, one of my peers (I am in no position to divulge the name) even went to the extent of suggesting that the ancient Myanmar phoneticians might have made a serious mistake in placing a sibilant in the place of a stop. However, I hesitate to agree because at the stage. I am still incompetent to contradict the ancients. The same place is occupied by Devanagari च (U091A). The Hindi-Devanagari च because of its closeness in pronunciation to English-Latin <ch> [ʧ]  is an "affricate". This is the one place where there is no correspondence between Burmese-Myanmar and Hindi-Devanagari. In Pali-Latin it is given as c , which is pronounced as c in <cell>.

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UKT notes

Formants of different settings


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From: AHTD:

fricative Linguistics n. 1. A consonant, such as f  or s in English, produced by the forcing of breath through a constricted passage. Also Called spirant . adj. 1. Of, relating to, or being a fricative consonant. [New Latin fricātīvus from Latin fricātus, past participle of fricāreto rub] -- AHTD

From: Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fricative_consonant 071231

Fricatives are consonants produced by forcing air through a narrow channel made by placing two articulators close together. These are the lower lip against the upper teeth in the case of [ f ], or the back of the tongue against the soft palate in the case of German [x], the final consonant of Bach. This turbulent airflow is called frication. A particular subset of fricatives are the sibilants. When forming a sibilant, one still is forcing air through a narrow channel, but in addition the tongue is curled lengthwise to direct the air over the edge of the teeth. English [s], [z], [ʃ], and [ʒ] are examples of this.

Two other terms are spirant and strident, but their usage is less standardized. The former can be used synonymously with "fricative", or (as in eg. Uralic linguistics) to refer to non-sibilant fricatives only. The latter can be used synonymously with "sibilant", but some authors include also labiodental and/or uvular fricatives in the class.

UKT: The following are items of interest to me (the examples given are onset-consonants -- less interest):
Some sibilant-fricatives with their English examples: [s] <set> ; [z] <zip> ; [ ʃ ] <sharp>
Some central non-sibilant fricatives with their English examples: [f] <fit> ; [v] <vine> ; [θ] <thing> ; [] <that>
   -- I propose to call them thibilants
Some lateral fricative: [ɬ] (example not given)
  -- Pronunciation of Welsh LL may be taken from DJPD16-318. Equivalent of Burmese-Myanmar {lha.}
  -- In the IPA table of consonants, though [ɬ] is given as a lateral fricative, [ l ] is given as a lateral approximant.
[h] <hat> is given as a pseudo-fricative.

UKT: Are there fricatives in Burmese-Myanmar? Yes. But does it have fricatives as coda-consonants? No. However we are now coming to have them in borrowed words like English <kiss> and <list>. I am not aware that MLC is working on them. In the meantime, I am trying to come up with a system of transcribing foreign words into Burmese-Myanmar. The scheme is to write to English word in IPA, and then to change IPA into Romabama, and from Romabama to  write in Burmese-Myanmar, e.g. (080324): e.g.

<kiss> --> /kɪs/ (DJPD16-301)
/kɪs/ --> {kiss}
{kiss} --> 
If possible write as vertical conjunct

<list> --> /lɪst/ (DJPD16-317)
/lɪst/  --> {list}
{list} -->

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pitch-register language

Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Register_%28phonology%29 download 070920
Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burmese_language download 071115
EEG & Voice quality http://www.ims.uni-stuttgart.de/phonetik/EGG/page11.htm download 071008
Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Register_(phonology) 080317 (This Wiki link will bring you to what you are looking for in a round about way -- don't despair. This is because Wikipedia is being updated all the time, and there are a number of Wiki articles relating to "register".)

The following is from Wikipedia:

In linguistics, a register language is a language which combines tone and vowel phonation into a single phonological system. Burmese and the Chinese dialect Shanghainese are examples. Burmese is usually considered a tonal language, but differences in relative pitch are correlated with vowel phonation, so that neither exists independently.

There are three or four vowel registers in Burmese.
(UKT: I have redrawn the table to reflect the Burmese-Myanmar vowels {a. a a:}. They are free vowels. Checked register or tone is of the class of checked vowels. They are always followed by a killed consonant: they are a different class.

The free vowels, the first three, are distinguished by both pitch and phonation taken together.

UKT: From the way, we as children have to learn our vowels as {a. a a:}, I have rearranged the examples given in the Wikipedia articles:
register #1: Creaky /kʰa̰/ 'fee' -- {hka.}
register #2: Low /kʰ/ 'shake' -- {hka}
register #3: High /kʰ/ 'be bitter' -- {hka:}
register #4: Checked /kʰaʔ/ 'draw off' -- {hkp}

UKT: The "short" and "long" vowels belong to register #4 in words such as: {daN} (short vowel) and {dN} (alternately {daaN) (long vowel).
{daN} /[dan]/ - n. 2. injury (from Pali: {daN~a.}) -- MEDict214
{dN} -- what I had thought was the correct spelling for "injury" until somebody pointed out the spelling in MEDict.

The following is from: EEG & Voice quality

Voice quality is sometimes described using the category of a register of voice. However, this categorization of voices is often misleading. A register is defined by Titze (1994:253) as a perceptual category that divides the regions of vocal quality into distinct regions that are maintained over some ranges of pitch and loudness. The register is a categorical feature which is quantally perceived and which is related to categorical perception.

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Runes or Magic Squares

There is a considerable amount of literature in Burmese-Myanmar on the "casting of the runes" . It is in the area of what a "modern" would call "white-magic" and "black-magic". The practice is pre-Buddhistic in Myanmar, and is similar to the pre-Christian European religion known as "Wicca" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wicca 070918. The "casting of the runes" is still practiced in Myanmar under the "cloak" of Buddhism. I am finding some parallels in linguistic terms between the religion of the Druids and that of pre-Buddhistic religious practices in Myanmar. The word <wizard> has a parallel in {waiz~za}. And, when I insist that {a.} (commonly transcribed as {tha.}) has the pronunciation of English <th> and not <s>, I am using my knowledge of the "casting of the runes", which in Burmese-Myanmar is "writing an {ing:} /ɪnː/".

How do you caste the runes? It is not just writing symbols and aksharas. You have to have mind-concentration, and pronounce the appropriate mantras taking care to pronounce the aksharas exactly in the prescribed way. In order to have a concentrated mind, the rune master must fast for a certain number of days during which time he must abstain from eating food of animal origin and also abstain from sexual acts (physical and mental). Only then his mind would be concentrated and he would be ready to caste the rune.

There are various symbols associated with the runes. The most well known is the Swastika. Go online to Wikipedia to read more on Swastika. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swastika 080321. The following is an excerpt from Wikipedia article.

"The swastika (from Sanskrit svstika< स्वस्तिक) is an equilateral cross with its arms bent at right angles, in either clockwise (卐) or counterclockwise (卍) forms. The swastika can also be drawn as a traditional swastika, but with a second 90 bend in each arm.
   "Archaeological evidence of swastika-shaped ornaments dates from the Neolithic period. An ancient symbol, it occurs mainly in the cultures that are in modern day India and the surrounding area, sometimes as a geometrical motif and sometimes as a religious symbol. It has long been widely used in major world religions such as Hinduism, Roman Catholicism, Buddhism and Jainism.
   "The swastika was appropriated as a Nazi symbol and gained further association with the Third Reich as the Reich gained influence. Though once commonly used over much of the world without stigma, over time the symbol has become a controversial motif, especially in the Western world."
   ... ... ...
   "The swastika has an extensive history. The motif seems to have first been used in Neolithic India. The symbol has an ancient history in Europe, appearing on artifacts from pre-Christian European cultures. In antiquity, the swastika was used extensively by the Indo-Aryans, Persians, Hittites, Celts and Greeks, among others. In particular, the swastika is a sacred symbol in Mithraism, Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism religions with over a billion adherents worldwide, making the swastika ubiquitous in both historical and contemporary society. The symbol was introduced to Southeast Asia by Hindu kings and remains an integral part of Balinese Hinduism to this day, and it is a common sight in Indonesia. It also was adopted independently [{pure conjecture?}] by several Native American cultures."

The most famous 'Master of Runes' in the fifteenth century was King Dhammazedi {Dam~ma.s-ti} (king of southern-Myanmar kingdom, Hanthawaddy (1471-1492 AD)). The figure on the left is the Burmese-Myanmar akshara-rune known as {sa.Da.ba.wa. ing:}. Note that {sa.} is the character r2c1 {sa.}/{ca.} and is not r6c5 {a.}. The Devanagari च (U091Devanagari Ca) corresponds to {sa.}/{ca.}. Modern linguists should note that these ancient cults are very demanding on the way a letter is pronounced, and the "master" would see that his "disciple" pronounced the words according to old traditions. And, I am sure the pronunciation would have undergone very little or no change at all over time, because of the belief that the magical power of a rune depends precisely on each akshara and mantra is pronounced.

After a discussion with one of my Gujarati friends, a retired physicist, on the Burmese-Myanmar and Hindi-Devanagari pronunciations (based on equivalence of positions in akshara tables) of ब (Devanagari Ba) = {ba.} , and व (Devanagari Va) = {wa.}, it dawned on me to try write the {sa.Da.ba.wa. ing:} with Devanagari akshara. The aksharas of the rune would looked like: च ध ब व. The "efficacy" of {sa.Da.ba.wa. ing:} depends not only on the pronunciation of the aksharas, but on the "circular" shape of the glyphs. With the Devanagari, even if you take out the top horizontal bar and the right-side vertical bar, you get the similarities in shapes (such as circular shape) only in ब and व . Constructing, the same rune with Brahmi glyphs also show that the similarities in shape is also lacking. This flimsy observation points out the the possibility that the practice of rune casting did not come into Myanmar from India.

The question is where did that practice originate? The possibility is Myanmar or the mountains on the north-western border of Myanmar. According to the Indian epic Mahabharata, it was to these mountains that Bhima, the strongest of the Pandava brothers, went. Those mountains were supposed to be the abode of gods and devils.

The efficacy of a written rune depends on the writer's ability to write the frame without having to lift the stylus or the pen from the writing surface.. The most perfect rune in this respect is the pentagram, which can be written in this way:

I was told by one of the rune-master friends of mine, that the Arabs in spite of their Islam religion, still practice rune-casting. He foretold the rise of the Islamic movement more than 30 years ago, According to him, it was the "guardian" of an Arabic rune, whom he described as a "goddess" (a female-jinn), who told his group about the birth of the leader of the movement and how they were taking turns to guard him. Whether you believe in magic or not, I think the practice of casting of the runes should be studied from a linguistic view point. I am sure that a considerable amount of knowledge is to be found in these "secret" writings, and a modern scientist should not ignore them.

If I were to use [ ] for <th>, no Myanmar would recognise it. (<th> is part of wife's name: Than). After all, Romabama must be user-friendly for all Burmese-speaking Myanmars, and I have no choice but to use digraphs in everyday email writing. However, when there is a possibility of a confusion, I do not hesitate to use {a.} for .

How am I to describe the Burmese-Myanmar {a.}/{tha.} phonetically? This question has always been a "thorn" in my side. The first part of my answer is: it is in every respect the equivalent of the English-Latin <th>, and since English <th> is described as "non-sibilant", the Burmese-Myanmar {a.}/{tha.} must be described as "non-sibilant".

The voiceless dental non-sibilant fricative is a type of consonantal sound used in some spoken languages. The symbol in the IPA that represents this sound is θ, and the equivalent X-SAMPA symbol is T. The IPA symbol is the Greek letter theta, which is used for this sound in Greek, and the sound is thus often referred to as "theta". It is familiar to English speakers as the 'th' in <thing>.
   The dental fricatives are often called "interdental" because they are often produced with the tongue between the upper and lower teeth, and not just against the back of the teeth, as they are with other dental consonants.
-- Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voiceless_dental_fricative download 070918

Though Burmese-Myanmar {a.} is very similar to English-Latin <th>, we should not rely too much on the similarity or sameness of the sound alone, because the "same" sound can be produced by different articulations by people of different ethnicity.

John Laver wrote in section on Velopharyngeal settings or  velic settings :
   "We are thus obliged to accept that different speakers may achieve auditorily (and perhaps articulatorily) similar results by physiologically different means. This is very likely to be true not only of the velopharyngeal mechanism, but of the entire speech apparatus. "
   -- The Phonetic Description of Voice Quality, by John Laver, Univ. of Edinburgh, Cambridge Univ. Press 1980, p72, reproduced in http://www.ling.mq.edu.au/ling/units/sph302/papers/laver_1980_nasal.pdf download 071029

Since Pali-Myanmar {a.}/{tha.} is the same as Burmese-Myanmar {a.}/{tha.}, the former must be described as "non-sibilant". Then, why is the character in the same position as {a.}/{tha.} given as <s> in Pali-Latin? My answer is: it is because Pali-Latin is under the influence of Sanskrit. It is possible that Pali (the western dialect of Magadhi), used <s> whereas the eastern dialect (Magadhi itself) used [/th]. If it were so (I am now on very shaky grounds), I can claim that Pali-Myanmar is the direct descendant of Magadhi -- the language used by the Buddha himself. There is a possibility to check this from the way this grapheme is pronounced in the religious texts of Janism. This does not seem very difficult because, Janist texts are written in Gujarati script. Gujarati is believed by some of my Indian friends in Canada, to be a direct descendant of Pali.

Jainism n. 1. An ascetic religion of India, founded in the sixth century B.C. , that teaches the immortality and transmigration of the soul and denies the existence of a perfect or supreme being. -- AHTD

Jainism, the contemporary of Buddhism, used Pali (the western dialect), whereas, Buddhism used Magadhi (the eastern dialect). See The Language Problem of Primitive Buddhism, by Chi Hisen-lin, Journal of the Burma Research Society, XLIII, i, June 1960. The paper is available online http://www.chibs.edu.tw/publication/LunCong/004/69_90.htm (download 070806). Since, Jainist texts are written in Gujarati , how is સ (U0AB8), the character corresponding to Pali-Myanmar {tha.}, pronounced by Jainist monks? I hope, some Indian linguist would give me an answer.

UKT: When you look into Gujarati script, akshara by akshara, you will find a curious vertical stroke with a right hook (verti-stroke): . This verti-stroke is present in many Gujarati aksharas. Use a little imagination and remove this stroke, and compare them to Pali-Myanmar characters. You will see a curious similarity. -- UKT 070821

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From Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sibilant_consonant 070918

UKT: From the following, I have to conclude that Burmese-Myanmar {sa.} and {za.} are sibilants. The inference is {a.}/{tha.} the r6c5 character (grapheme), is not to be confused with /s/. And Pali-Myanmar {a.}/{tha.} is not to be pronounced as /s/.

A sibilant is a type of fricative or affricate consonant, made by directing a jet of air through a narrow channel in the vocal tract towards the sharp edge of the teeth.

UKT: "A sibilant is a type of fricative ... " does not mean that all fricatives are sibilants. If you go on reading this downloaded file you will come across a non-sibilant [θ] voiceless alveolar. [θ] is sometimes called a thibilant.
See Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thibilant download 070918

sibilant Linguistics adj. 1. Of, characterized by, or producing a hissing sound like that of (s) or (sh): the sibilant consonants; a sibilant bird call. n. 1. A sibilant speech sound, such as English (s), (sh), (z), or (zh). [Latin sībilāns sībilant-,present participle of sībilāreto hiss] -- AHTD

Sibilants are louder than their non-sibilant counterparts, and most of their acoustic energy occurs at higher frequencies than non-sibilant fricatives. [s] has the most acoustic strength at around 8,000 Hz, but can reach as high as 10,000 Hz. [ ʃ ] has the bulk of its acoustic energy at around 4,000 Hz, but can extend up to around 8,000 Hz.

The spin-off terms shibilant, and rarely thibilant, are used to describe particular kinds of fricative [{UKT: the originial word given in Wikipedia is <sibilant>. This I have change to its superset <fricative>,)

Symbols : Of the sibilants, the following have IPA symbols of their own:
Alveolar: /s/ , /z/ (either apical or laminal)
  - / ʃ / , /ʒ/ (Palato-alveolar: that is, "domed" (partially palatalized) postalveolar, either laminal or apical)
  - / ɕ / , / ʑ / (Alveolo-palatal: that is, laminal palatalized postalveolar; these are equivalent to ʃʲ, ʒʲ)
  - / ʂ / , / ʐ /: (Retroflex, which can mean one of three things: (a) non-palatalized apical postalveolar, (b) sub-apical postalveolar or pre-palatal, or (c) non-palatalized laminal ("flat") postalveolar, sometimes transcribed / s̠ z̠ / or / ʂ̻ ʐ̻ /..

Other definitions of sibilants: Some authors, as for instance Chomsky & Halle (1964), group [⁠ f] and [⁠v] as sibilants. However, they do not have the grooved articulation and high frequencies of other sibilants, and most phoneticians (for instance by Ladefoged & Maddieson 1996), continue to group them together with the bilabial fricatives [⁠ɸ, β] as non-sibilant anterior fricatives. Some researchers judge [⁠f] to be strident in one language, e.g. the African language Ewe, as determined by experimental measurements of amplitude, but as non-strident in English.

The nature of sibilants as so-called 'obstacle fricatives' is complicated - there is a continuum of possibilities relating to the angle at which the jet of air may strike an obstacle. The grooving often considered necessary for classification as a sibilant has been observed in ultrasound studies of the tongue for supposedly non-sibilant [θ] voiceless alveolar non-sibilant fricative (Stone and Lundberg, 1996, Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, vol. 99: 3728-3737). More research on the phonetic bases of the terms sibilance and stridency, and their interrelationship, is required.

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spirant Linguistics n. 1. See fricative . adj. 1. Fricative. [Latin spīrāns spīrant-,present participle of spīrāreto breathe] -- AHTD

sibilant Linguistics adj. 1. Of, characterized by, or producing a hissing sound like that of (s) or (sh): the sibilant consonants; a sibilant bird call. n. 1. A sibilant speech sound, such as English (s), (sh), (z), or (zh). [Latin sībilāns sībilant-,present participle of sībilāreto hiss] -- AHTD

From: http://cancerweb.ncl.ac.uk/cgi-bin/omd?spirant 070920
UKT: Going online to search using the string "spirant" does not give a Wikipedia article. The above was one of the articles that were available.

A term used differently by different authorities;
by some as equivalent to fricative, that is, as including all the continuous consonants, except the nasals m, n, ng;
with the further exception, by others, of the liquids r, l, and the semivowels w, y;
by others limited to f, v, th surd and sonant, and the sound of German ch, thus excluding the sibilants, as well as the nasals, liquids, and semivowels.

The above paragraph was written as one sentence. I have inserted three "bullets" for easy reading. I have also put in bullets into the second sentence of the excerpt below.
Because of "... by some as equivalent to fricative", I used the string "fricative" in my internet (Google) search. The following is what I got: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fricative_consonant 071218. An excerpt from the Wikipedia file is given below.

Fricatives (or spirants) are consonants produced by forcing air through a narrow channel made by placing two articulators close together. These are:
the lower lip against the upper teeth in the case of [f], or
the back of the tongue against the soft palate in the case of German [x], the final consonant of Bach.
This turbulent airflow is called frication. A particular subset of fricatives are the sibilants (sometimes referred to as stridents). When forming a sibilant, one still is forcing air through a narrow channel, but in addition the tongue is curled lengthwise to direct the air over the edge of the teeth. English [s], [z], [ʃ], and [ʒ] are examples of this.
... ... ...
Central non-sibilant fricatives
[f], [v], [
θ], []

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thibilant or inter-dental fricative

From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thibilant 080309
UKT: The term "inter-dental" is preferred over "dental", because this sound is produced with the tongue-tip held lightly between the upper and lower teeth. The term "dental" means the tongue tip is touching the upper teeth, and is not as specific as "interdental".

Dental fricative or interdental fricative - non-sibilant coronal fricative.

There are two basic types:

[] - voiced dental fricative
[θ] - voiceless dental fricative

A thibilant is a term occasionally found for an (inter)dental fricative.

Though they are basically dental, alveolar realisation also occurs.

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End of TIL file.