LINGUIST List 10.1498

Mon Oct 11 1999

Disc: The Palatal Plosive in Galiza

Editor for this issue: Karen Milligan <>


  1. Xos� L. Regueira, Re: The palatal plosive in Galiza

Message 1: Re: The palatal plosive in Galiza

Date: Thu, 07 Oct 1999 14:41:05 +0200
From: Xos� L. Regueira <>
Subject: Re: The palatal plosive in Galiza

Re: Issue 10.1471

The inclusion of a "voiced palatal plosive" in my "IPA Illustration" for
the Galician language (The Handbook of the International Phonetic
Association. Cambridge Univ Press, 1999) has been very strongly criticized
by Celso �lvarez-C�ccamo in a message to the List.

The situation of the Galician language in this point, as far as I know by
the phonetic descriptions available and by my own work, is as follows:

a) Many Latin clusters, such as -LJ-, evolved in Galician, as well as in
Portuguese and Spanish, to a palatal lateral consonant (rendered with
orthographic "ll" in Galician and Spanish, with "lh" in Portuguese).
Spanish and Galician have experienced a phonological change which has led
to some non-lateral consonants, instead of the original palatal lateral.
The origin of this change is controversial, but the most widely accepted
interpretation is that this change has been induced by the Spanish language
in Galician. Nowadays, the palatal lateral consonant is only found in aged
speakers of Galicia; it is very uncommon in speakers aged less 50-60 years

b) Traditional phonetic descriptions of Spanish stated that the original
palatal lateral was replaced by many speakers with a voiced palatal
fricative or a voiced palatal affricate. In some Galician descriptions this
idea is repeated without further evidence. In some researches with young
native Galician speakers, my colleagues and I have noticed that (at least)
in Galician the most common sounds for this are a palatal approximant and a
voiced palatal plosive; the voiced palatal affricate is rather rare (only
found in occasional, emphatic pronunciations); and we have never found a
voiced palatal fricative (which has been described in some works in
Spanish). We have spectrographic evidence of these statements.
And here raises an interesting point: we have a "palatal approximant" (as
in "mallo", the name of a farming tool, or "ollo" [Ojo] 'eye'; NB: [O]
stands for "open mid-back rounded vowel") which is contrastive with the
palatal semi-vowel, which can be described also as "palatal approximant"
(as in "maio" 'may (month)' or in "oio" [Ojo] 'I hear'). This point needs
further research. 
The speaker selected for the "IPA Illustration" alternates the palatal
plosive and the palatal approximant, but he pronounces a palatal plosive
speaking slowly (as in the recorded words and text). He also distinguishes
the palatal approximant from the palatal semi-vowel. So I have used only
the symbol for the "voiced palatal plosive" without further explanation,
waiting for a more complete and accurate description. Note that the rest of
the voiced palatal plosives /b d g/ also alternate with the correspondent
approximants, but these are not present in the consonant chart.
Such a "voiced palatal plosive" has been described also in Spanish by
Lourdes Aguilar (De la vocal a la consonante. Santiago de Compostela, 1997)
with spectrographic data.

c) Since the 19th Century many Galician writers and scholars have
undertaken the standardisation of the Galician language. Nevertheless, the
discussion about the spoken standard Galician has started in recent times.
The palatal lateral consonant (v.g. in "muller" 'woman') is seen by many
Galician linguists (and language-planners) as a more proper pronunciation
than other palatal consonants (possibly Spanish influence). But the success
of this proposal seems to be very difficult, since very few Galician
teachers, linguists and planners (including the supporters of this
pronunciation) can pronounce the "correct" palatal lateral.
In my "Illustration" I had no choice: the native speaker selected had no
palatal lateral. My aim was not to describe an "ideal" spoken Galician, but
a real variety of the Galician language.

In his message, Celso �lvarez-C�ccamo (henceforth, CAC) repeats the
statements of the traditional phonetic descriptions of Spanish ("The most
common range of sounds for this segment in urban dialects is perhaps a
palato-alveolar approximant, fricative or even affricate"), and he finds
the palatal plosive "odd". CAC shows no evidence of his statements. 
Furthermore, CAC accuses me of describing the language of a "Spanish
speaker who has acquired Galizan as a second tongue through formal
instruction", "undoubtedly a bilingual". I have to make clear that the
speaker of the Galician Illustration is a native monolingual speaker (that
stands for a speaker with L1 Galician, with Galician as familiar, informal
and also formal language in his everyday life, although he can also speak
Spanish and other languages), who actually teachs at a Galician university.
This speaker is not a "unique and exemplary" one (many people in the
cultural and professional life in Galicia have the same profile); and
evidently I believe that he is not "the wrong speaker".
Prof. John Esling has a copy of the Digital Audio Tape with the recorded
passage, which should be included in a CD-ROM along with the other
Illustrations. I dont know why it is not yet published.

This discussion can only be understood in the language-ideologically
context of Galicia. CAC supports the idea that the Galician language is a
(rather rural) variety of the Portuguese language (hence the name
"Galizan-Portuguese"), and therefore he is against the current process of
standardisation of the Galician language. Contrary, I am a native Galician
speaker and I support and work for the standardisation and the social
spread of my language.
In this context, CAC, ignoring the facts, understands my work as a spurious
move to "separate" the Galician language from Portuguese, and he attempts
to discredit it based only on his own suppositions about a "wrong speaker".
This is absolutely false. CAC does not give any valid argument, but rather
what appears to be only an ideological attack.

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