Palatalization - Phonetics


"Pure" palatalization is denoted by a small superscript ⟨ʲ⟩ in IPA. This is a modification to the articulation of a consonant, where the middle of the tongue is raised, and nothing else. It may produce a laminal articulation of otherwise apical consonants such as /t/ and /s/. It is a phonemic feature in some languages; a common misconception is that it is merely allophonic, like in English. Phonemic palatalization may be contrasted with either plain or velarized articulation. In Finnic languages, Baltic languages and Slavic languages, the contrast is with plain consonants, but in Irish, it is with velarized consonants.

Phonetically palatalized consonants may vary in their exact realization. Some, but not all languages add offglides or onglides. In Russian, both plain and palatalized consonant phonemes are found in words like пальто, царь and Катя . Typically, the vowel (especially a non-front vowel) following a palatalized consonant has a palatal offglide. In Hupa, on the other hand, the palatalization is heard as both an onglide and an offglide. In some cases, the realization of palatalization may change without any corresponding phonemic change. For example, according to Thurneysen, palatalized consonants at the end of a syllable in Old Irish had a corresponding onglide (reflected as ⟨i⟩ in the spelling), which was no longer present in Middle Irish (based on explicit testimony of grammarians of the time period).

Palatalization can also occur as a suprasegmental feature that affects the pronunciation of an entire syllable. This is the case in Skolt Sami, a language which is unusual in contrasting suprasegmental palatalization with segmental palatalization (i.e., inherently palatalized consonants).

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