LINGUIST List 10.1471

Thu Oct 7 1999

Disc: The "Palatal Plosive" in Galiza

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  1. Celso Alvarez Caccamo, The "palatal plosive" in Galiza

Message 1: The "palatal plosive" in Galiza

Date: Mon, 4 Oct 1999 19:43:24 -0100 (GMT)
From: Celso Alvarez Caccamo <>
Subject: The "palatal plosive" in Galiza

Some time ago, Jorge Guitart wrote in LINGUIST,

"The Handbook of the International Phonetic Association: A Guide to the
Use of the International Phonetic Alphabet (Cambridge Univ Press, 1999--no
authors listed) illustrates the consonants and vowels of 29 languages. Of
these only four, Czech, Galician, Turkish, and Irish are described as
having palatal plosives. Hungarian is described as having them only in
formal speech, and Hungarian is the only language of those illustrated
that has palatal affricates. In all other languages that have affricates
these are either dental or alveolar or post alveolar or palato alveolar. I
have several questions".

It surprised me to see "Galician" listed as having a phonemic "palatal
plosive". The IPA description for Galician must come originally from this 
article in JIPA: 

Regueira, Xos� L. 1996. "Galician". Journal of the International Phonetic 
Association, 26(2), 119-122.

There, Regueira lists the palatal plosive (dotless barred j) as the
phonemic unit for what in Galizan-Portuguese is represented as "lh": 
"mulher" 'woman', "alho" 'garlic'. I really wonder what Regueira's
criteria for this decision were. Indeed, in the speech of many Galizans,
the traditional lateral palatal has given way to a central sound very much
like the one found in "ye�sta" dialects of Spanish. However, it is
excessive to claim that: 

"... in the language of most speakers, especially in urban and young 
speakers, the palatal lateral consonant has been replaced by a voiced 
palatal PLOSIVE [dotless-barred-j], as can be seen in the table above" 
(:119, my emphasis).

The most common range of sounds for this segment in urban dialects is
perhaps a palato-alveolar approximant, fricative or even affricate; but
the (palatal?) plosive is indeed less frequent and, if you ask me, it
sounds quite *odd* as a sample of native speech. It is found sometimes,
for example, in the speech of anchorpersons who have a distinct
non-Galizan accent and do all sorts of phonetically and prosodically
striking things. 

The key to Regueira's descriptive preference for the plosive can be found
in this passage: 

"The language variety described here is that of colloquial Galician as 
spoken by a middle-aged male speaker whose speech may be considered 
representative of an informal variety used by educated urban speakers" 

Well, this one speaker's speech MAY be representative of such a variety... 
but then it may NOT be. Further, "educated urban speaker", in the Galizan
context, has a clear sociolinguistic meaning that Regueira does not make
explicit. The expression translates most commonly as an urban native
Spanish speaker who has acquired Galizan as a second tongue through formal
instruction. It is not surprising that in his/her dialect the palatal
lateral is absent, as "ye�smo" is widespread in the Spanish-speaking
domain. ((I myself am an "educated urban speaker" of Galizan (a bilingual)
and I use a palato-alveolar approximant or fricative, never a plosive.
Should my speech be used for an overall description of Galizan?)). Indeed,
the "elderly speakers" who do use the palatal lateral typically are,
precisely, native Galizan-Portuguese speakers, not "educated urban" ones. 

That Regueira is not exactly describing an "informal" Galizan variety is
confirmed by the "Transcription of recorded passage" (:122) at the end.
The *extreme systematicity* of many of the phonetic phenomena
(particularly if produced by an "educated urban speaker", that is,
undoubtedly a bilingual) must be unique and exemplary. It would be an
excellent idea if all recordings which serve as the basis for
transcriptions and language descriptions in the IPA journal and manuals
were publicly available (for example, in the Internet), so that
researchers could contrast transcriptions. I myself would be exceedingly
interested in listening to this recording. 

In short: adventurously attributing the existence of a "palatal plosive" 
phonemic segment to "Galician" in a prestigious publication which has
reproduced such information in a potentially influential Handbook has
important implications, one of which is, of course, to further parcel out
the Galizan-Portuguese domain. I think Regueira has picked the wrong
speaker for his description... or the right one for demonstrating that
"Galician" is so different from other Portuguese varieties that it no
longer has a palatal lateral. Perhaps that's the type of "Galician" he
aimed at describing, for some reason (in such a case, Regueira forgot to
mention that for many urban speakers the nasal velar phoneme and the /e:E/
and /o:O/ vowel oppositions are practically out of the picture, too). But
that's not the type of Galizan-Portuguese as spoken in Galiza daily, not
just by "educated urban speakers". 

 Celso Alvarez-Caccamo Tel. +34 981 167000 ext. 1888
 Linguistica Geral, Faculdade de Filologia FAX +34 981 167151
 Universidade da Corunha
 15071 A Corunha, Galiza (Espanha)
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