LINGUIST List 6.1221

Fri Sep 8 1995

Sum: Palatal Glides

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  1. , Summary: glides

Message 1: Summary: glides

Date: Fri, 08 Sep 1995 10:45:49 Summary: glides
From: <>
Subject: Summary: glides

SUMMARY: Palatal glides

A while ago, I posted a request for information on languages which constrast
different degrees of palatalization between initial consonant and nucleus, i.e.
languages in which there are different types of unrounded palatal onglides, as
in the following popular reconstruction of Middle Chinese [sic]:

 kan kjan kian kjian

Here are the replies. My thanks to Ernie Scatton, Bart Mathias, David Stampe,
Joseph DeChicchis, Mark A. Mandel, Chris Cleirich, and Steven Shaufele.

Wenchao Li
Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford


 >Date: Fri, 25 Aug 1995 15:54:05 -0400 (EDT)

I wonder if this is what you have in mind. Russian shows a four-way
contrast, using [t] as an example:

[ta] nonpalatalized (actually velarized) [t] and [a]
[t'a] palatalized [t']
[t'ja] palatalized [t'] followed by palatal glide
[t'ija] palatalized [t'] followed by high front tense [i]

This series is replicated through most (alveo)dental consonants
(stops, fricatives, nasal, lateral, trill) and labials (stops, fricatives).

Here are some examples. They're in "broad" phonetic
transcription. Stressed vowels are given as caps.

y = high back unrounded vowel
x = voiceless velar fricative
zh = voiced alveopalatal fricative
ch = voiceless alveopalatal affricate
k' = voiceless palatal stop
g' = voiced palatal stop
' = otherwise palatalized consonant
prep = prepositional case
nom = nominative case
sg = singular
conj = conjunction
gen = genitive case
pl = plural
3 = third person
pres = present tense
perf = perfective aspect
imp = imperfective aspect

 C'V C'jV C'ijV

[sk'it'E] [zhyt'jE] [zhyt'ijE]
prep sg prep sg nom sg
'skeet' (= 'existence' 'saint's life'
small monastery)

[xat'A] [stat'jA] [p'it'ijA]
conj nom sg gen sg
'although' 'article' 'drink'

[dYn'i] [sv'In'ji] [g'En'iji]
nom pl nom pl prep sg
'melon' 'pig' 'genius'

[stUp'at] [xlOp'ja] [blagal'Ep'ija]
3 pl pres perf nom pl gen sg
'step' 'flake' 'splendor'

[trAt'at] [svAt'ja] [zachAt'ija]
3 pl pres imp nom sg gen sg
'spend' 'mother of son-in 'conception'

There is an audible difference between [t'a] and [t'ja], and it is
easily confirmed by spectrographic data. In the second case there is much
more of a y-like transition between consonant and vowel. The difference is
clearest when the vowel is stressed. In unstressed situations, particularlyy
in casual speech, the distinction is atttenuated.

[t'ija] would be two syllables in Russian...but if the stress falls
earlier than the [t'ija] sequence, the [i] would be "reduced" .... ps
perhaps as far as eventually yielding [t'ja]. If the stress falls on [a]
the "reduction" would be less because vowels in immediate pretonic syllables
in Russian remain fairly clear as opposed to those in other unstressed

You might find it useful to get in touch with a graduate student at Ohio
State who is currently doing an instrumental study of these very syllable
types in Russian, and studying acquisition of them by native speakers of
Russian. She has TERRIFIC Russian data. Her name and coordinates:

 erin diehm

 Best wishes,
 Ernie Scatton


 >Date: Sat, 26 Aug 1995 07:44:15 -1000
 >Sender: Gerald B Mathias <>
 >From: Gerald B Mathias <>

I can't give you the information you want, but I'm with you in the sense that
I cannot fathom the four-way phonetic distinction you quote. If [j] ideally
represents a glide from the position of [i] to that of the next vowel, then
how could [ji] be different from [i]. That is the view I present to my
students in explaining why /(C)yV/ in Japanese does not include a /Ci/~/Cyi/

One things I have a little problem squaring with that view, however, is the
fact that one can to some extent discriminate between such names as Michio
and Michiyo in Japanese, where it would seem both names have to involve some
form of palatal glide between the /i/ and the /o/. My best guess is that
this has something to do with "juncture," and it would not apply to the cases
you ask about.

Bart Mathias


 >Date: Sat, 26 Aug 1995 16:31:13 -0500 (CDT)
 >From: Steven Schaufele <>

As i understand it, your query in LINGUIST has to do with whether there
are any languages in which the existence of a palatal on-glide is not
merely a binary, +/- matter (yes, this syllable includes a palatal
on-glide / no, it does not), but rather which make finer distinctions
between types/degrees of palatal on-glides.

Not being a Slavicist, i cannot speak on this subject with much
knowledge, but i would recommend that you look into the Slavic languages
and/or consult with experts thereon. Phonemic palatalization is endemic in
the Slavic languages, more so than in most other branches of Indo-European.
To the best of my knowledge, most if not all of the Slavic languages
which have a standard form and a standard orthography have orthographic
representations of the palatalization feature, whether in the form of a
diacritic as in Polish or of a distinct alphabetic `letter' as in
Russian, in which the letter in question is called the `myagkiy znak'
("soft sign") and looks like a lowercase `b'. (Historically, this symbol
originally represented an `ultra-short' palatal vowel, but we won't go
into that right now.)

In addition to the `myagkiy znak', the Russian version of the Cyrillic
alphabet has two sets of symbols representing vowels. One set represents
the `pure' vowels /a/, /e/, /i/, /o/, and /u/; the other represents the
same vowels with a palatal on-glide. (There are actually only four
symbols in this set, since in Russian the distinction between /je/ and
/jo/ is lost in unstressed syllables. There is a diacritic that can be
used to distinguish between them, but i believe it is seldom if ever used
in contemporary Russian orthography; one just has to know when the symbol
"e" represents a back as opposed to a front vowel.) It's always been my
understanding that a consonant followed by one of the symbols for a vowel
with a palatal on-glide is itself palatalized. But there are some words
(i can't call any to mind at the moment) that have a consonant followed
by *both* the `myagkiy znak' *and* a symbol for a vowel with a palatal
on-glide. In some cases, there may be a syllable or a morpheme boundary
in between, and maybe the palatalization inherent in the vowel can't
cross that boundary, but i don't think this is the case with every
example i've seen of such a string. So you have the following three
(orthographic) options:

 CV CjV CbjV
(where "j" represents a palatal on-glide and "b" is the `myagkiy znak'.)
Does this mean there is an `intermediate' degree of palatalization in
Russian? I don't know.

Then there's the question of vowels with palatal on-glides in
syllable-initial position. For instance, the name of the current
President of Russia is usually represented in Western orthographies with
an explicit representation of a palatal on-glide: in English `Yeltsin',
in German presumably `Jeltsin' or `Jelzin'. But in Russian there is no
distinct letter representing that glide; the man's name begins with the
letter "E", which properly represents a vowel /e/ with a palatal
on-glide. An orthographic sequence of `i' (looks like a backwards letter
"N") and `e' (looks like a backwards "3") would presumably represent a
distinct phonetic phenomenon.

I've long been aware that in Russian liturgical usage the exclamation
which we in the West know as `(H)alleluia' is five syllables long; they
have abstracted out the palatal glide at the beginning of the last
syllable and made a full syllable out of it -- and then go ahead an
include a palatal on-glide in the following syllable. So the whole thing
comes out: al-le-lu-i-ja. I wouldn't be at all surprised if, within the
Slavic linguistic context, that /a/ has the on-glide merely because it
follows a high front vowel, although historically (i.e., taking it back
to the Hebrew original) the palatal on-glide is `correct' and the fully
syllabic front vowel a `corruption'. Likewise, although historically the
name `Jesus' begins with a palatal on-glide and a mid vowel, in the
Slavic languages the mid vowel has completely disappeared and the first
syllable consists solely of a long /i/. But here we're getting into
areas of liturgical and religious language which are probably influenced
by the idiosyncracies of not only Greek but Old Church Slavonic; i'm not
sure how much light they shed on the nature of palatal on-glides and
palatalization in Slavic.

Q: You said that historically, the "b" was represented as an ultra-short
palatal on-glide. Do you think it might be possible that "b" and "j" could be
examples of the same palatalization process occurring at different stages in
the development of the language, i.e., that "b" was an earlier palatalization,
and "j" is a later one, i.e., "b" is just an earlier "j"?

I don't think so; again, i'm not an expert on this stuff, but my
understanding is that the very earliest historically attested Slavic
languages (Old Church Slavonic, etc.) had a couple of `ultra-short' high
vowels, one front and the other back; they are referred to in scholarly
work as the `jers', and the Cyrillic alphabet, having been crafted late
in the 1st millenium C.E. to represent Old Church Slavonic, etc., has
symbols to represent them. I *think* the historical origin of these
vowels was in most cases epenthesis. Most if not all of the modern
Slavic languages have lost them. However, the front `jer', while it
existed, had a natural palatalizing tendency on preceding consonants, and
this has survived; in languages like Russian that continue to use the
Cyrillic alphabet, the graphical representation of the front `jer' is
still used to represent the palatalization that in earlier Slavic
resulted from the phonological presence of the `jer' (the graphical
representatinon of the back `jer', meanwhile, is used to indicate a
syllable boundary between a consonant and a following vowel). However, i
know nothing about the origin of the distinct set of palatalizing vowels
- vowels with palatal on-glides -- i mentioned earlier; the `jers' may
have had something to do with that, though i doubt it.


Dr. Steven Schaufele
712 West Washington
Urbana, IL 61801

**** O syntagmata linguarum liberemini humanarum! ***
*** Nihil vestris privari nisi obicibus potestis! ***


 >From: David Stampe <>

There is good reason to doubt the situation as you've described it!
If [ia] is a indeed rising diphthong, with on-glide [i] and peak [a],
then [kia], [kja], and [kjia] would be respectively [kja], [kja], [kjja],
and it seems unlikely that [kjja] could be distinguished from [kja].

However, many dialects of Chinese and other South-East Asian languages
have [ia] as a FALLING diphthong with peak [i] and off-glide [a].
So, marking the nonpeak with a caret underneath, a form like [kjian]
would be pronounced [kjian], rather than as (impossible?) [kjian].
 ^ ^
I don't know the history of Chinese but these are volatile sequences.
Although an identical glide--vowel sequence like [ji] or [wu] is not
impossible (English `ye', `woo'), most languages would delete the glide.
(The sequence is even worse after a C, so that [Cji] and [Cwu] don't
occur at all in English, except secondarily as in the babytalk version
of `crew' as [kwu].) So [kji] : [kjia] might become [ki] : [kia].
Or, if, as sometimes happens, a falling diphthong becomes rising, as
e.g. in Old English spiw-, Mod. English spju: `spew', the merger would
be [kja] : [kia] : [kjia] becoming [kja] : [kja] : [kjja] = [kja].

David Stampe <>
Dept. of Linguistics, Univ. of Hawai`i/Manoa, Honolulu HI 96822


 >From: (Joseph DeChicchis)

I assume, since you are talking about Chinese, that all of these forms
would be monomorphemic. If indeed no morpheme boundary is permitted, then
I must agree with you that such a four-way contrast is indeed unlikely. I
know of no such four-way contrast in any other language (and I'd appreciate
you're informing me of any you may discover). On the other hand, if
boundary information is permitted, then all bets are off. For example, I
know of no English speaker for whom [kio] vs. [kjo] vs. [kjio] (as for
"kiosk", "Kyoto", "Keough") is an operative contrast; but, whatever may be
their idiolectal facts in these words, they may well differ from the
allophonic patterning attested by phrases such as "key Oscar" (compare
"kiosker"). Similarly, in the sort of odd phonetically exaggerated speech
one encounters in modeling by caretakers and instructors, or by character
actors, we get weird stuff such as: bjI:utifl vs. bI:utifl vs. bi:utifl
("beautiful"). Well, that's my two bits. Cheers.

Joseph DeChicchis
Associate Professor, Department of Foreign Languages
Faculty of Integrated Arts and Sciences, Hiroshima University
Kagamiyama 1-7-1, Higashi Hiroshima 739, Japan
(telephone +81-824-246432 voice; -240755 fax)


 >Date: Tue, 29 Aug 1995 15:40:35 -0500

I can't help wondering: Could MidC have had a 4-way
contrast of +/- (palatalized initial), +/- (medial glide)? [Parens,
rather than brackets, because I'm not talking about features.] So to
speak, treating the [j]'s in your
 [kan] vs [kian] vs [kjan] vs [kjian]
as if they were written superscript. Spanish has at least a 3-way
contrast between phonetic
 [no] vs [No] vs [nio] (N = pal. nas.)

 Mark A. Mandel
 Dragon Systems, Inc. : speech recognition : +1 617 965-5200
 320 Nevada St. : Newton, Mass. 02160, USA :


 >Date: Tue, 5 Sep 1995 10:57:34 +1000
 >From: Chris Cleirigh <>

Irish has palatal on-glides (phonetically) between palatalised consonants and
following nonfront long vowels.

If the following vowel is high, so is the glide: ie [i] quality,
if the following vowel is nonhigh, so is the glide: ie [e] quality.

See Mhac An Fhailigh 1980 The Irish Of Erris County Mayo (Dublin Institute of
Advanced Studies).

Many languages would have phonetic contrasts of this type, but they are either
ignored (being nonphonemic) or labelled as vowels

Chris Cleirigh
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