LINGUIST List 7.1670

Tue Nov 26 1996

Sum: coronality of [j]

Editor for this issue: T. Daniel Seely <>


  1. Sam Wang, coronality of [j]

Message 1: coronality of [j]

Date: Sat, 23 Nov 1996 08:03:36 +0800
From: Sam Wang <>
Subject: coronality of [j]
Three weeks ago I posted a question concering the coronality of the
glide [j] (vol-7-1551). Several linguists have responded to the
question, and I would like to thank those who responded. The original
question was:

> Subject: Is [j] coronal?
> In SPE, the palatal glide [j] (or [y]) is specified as [-coronal]
> (p. 176), but many other linguists such as Ladefoged (A Course in
> Phonetics, 3rd ed,p. 44) and Kenstowicz (Phonology in Generative
> Grammar, p.31) consider it [+coronal].
> My question is: since [j] corresponds to the vowel [i] in its place
> of articulation, should [i] be considered as [+coronal] as well if
> [j] is [+coronal]?

Following is the summary of the responses:
- ------------------------------------------------------------------------

From: (Miguel Carrasquer Vidal)

	Given that [j] is articulated with the front of the tongue
near the hard palate, it is "coronal" by any reasonable definition of
the term. As to [i], it's a vowel of course, which in a sense means
that the static articulator (the hard palate in this case) drops out
of the equation. Tongue position still plays a crucial part, and [i]
is characterized by its front, high tongue position. "Coronal" is a
suffieciently vague term for it to fit the bill, as far as I'm
concerned. It depends on what you need it for. You can use
[+coronal] [+dorsal] to classify front and back vowels, for instance,
as Ladefoged suggests (A Course in Phonetics, 3rd. ed. Table 2.3), or
you may opt for [+/-back] instead (ibid.).
- -----------------------------------------------------------------------
From: (Gonzalo Rubio)

It's true that Chomsky and Halle considered palatals as [-coronal] (in
SPE). However, on phonological grounds, they were reclassified as
coronals later (P. Keating, _A Survey of Phonological Features_
[Bloomington 1988]). You may want to read especially the comments by
Keating in C. Paradis and J.-F. Prunet (eds), _The Special Status of
Coronals: Internal an External Evidence_ (San Diego 1991), esp. pp. 37
f. Also you may find useful insights in Diamandis Gafos's diss., "The
Articulatory Basis of Locality in Phonology" (PhD diss. The Johns
Hopkins University, August 1996).

- ------------------------------------------------------------------------

	In "The internal organization of speech sounds", Clements and
Hume consider [coronal] to include "coronal consonants; front vocoids"
(p. 277). You'll find this article in John Goldsmith, ed. HANDBOOK OF
PHONOLOGICAL THEORY (Blackwell, 1995).

- -------------------------------------------------------------------------

I cannot tell you much about this, but my impression is that the
frequent citation of [j] as [+coronal] in post-SPE accounts reflects a
desire to group [j] with the alveopalatals for purposes of describing
phonological processes.

- -------------------------------------------------------------------------
From: (jakob)

Ladefoged divides articulatory locations involving the tongue into 3
groups; obviously "j" should be in the middle, coronal type. It is
interesting that Catford, whom I consider to be an equal authority in
phonetics, does not mention the term, using instead terms such as
denti-apico-lamino. Clark & Yallop, referring to Jakobson/Halle's
features list, instead use the terms acute and grave. "j" would then
be acute, i.e non-peripheral in articulatory terms, and having higher
frequencies in acoustic terms. Certainly the acoustic viewpoint would
hold for both vowels and glides, so we should call "i" an acute vowel
(Catford further defines it as an approximant vowel).
"Labial-coronal-dorsal" seem to be more traditionally associated with
a tongue-as-articulator viewpoint; the features classification might
be more useful since it puts things in a broader context.

Yours truly, ---Jakob Dempsey, Ph.D. UW

- ----------------------------------------------------------------------
From: (Markus Hiller)

for an affirmative answer (plus plenty references), see

 HUME, elizabeth v., 1994. front vowels, coronal consonants and
 their interaction in nonlinear phonology. new york city/london:
 garland. (published version of 1992 diss., ithaca ny: cornell).

(markus hiller, university of tuebingen, germany )

p.s.: the topic has, among others, been brought up by
	broselow/niyondagara 1989; i hope you find the
	ref. in hume's diss., for i do not have it at hand.

- -------------------------------------------------------------------

From: (Wen-chao Li)

Whether [i] is coronal or not depends on the type of feature geometry
you are using. Constriction-based feature geometries such as Clements
(1991-- Cornell Working Papers) or Clements and Hume (1995--in John
Goldsmith -- Handbook of Phonological Theory; Oxford: Blackwells)
treat [i] as a coronal vowel, whereas articulator-based feature
geometries, e.g. Halle (1991--in Michael Kenstowicz--Phonology in
Generative Linguistics), and most of the others, treat all vowels as
dorsal, and therefore not coronal.

In essence, constriction-based feature geometries adopting Clement's
approach use all the articulator features in the description of
vowels, so that the feature [coronal] would naturally be assigned to
[i]. On the other hand, according to articulator-based feature
geometries, vowels all have the dorsal area as the active part of the
oral cavity, and therefore all vowels are dorsal. According to the
latter approach, coronal vowels would probably refer to apical vowels
like those found after the Chinese apical and retroflex initials only.

% H. Samuel Wang 
% Department of Foreign Languages 
% National Tsing Hua University 
% Hsin-Chu 300 Taiwan email:
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