Nasals

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dreamy76

Senior Member
Arabic
I have a linguistic question about nasals/m, n, ŋ/, though i am not sure if this is the right place to ask

Do nasals combine with consonants clusters?


Many thanks.
 
  • natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    You mean: do nasals combine with other consonants to form consonant clusters? Yes, of course they do in English. Think of /ŋk/ bank, link, /ŋd/ banged, /nd/ banned, /md/ slammed.

    They don't combine with each other: the m's are silent in column and mnemonic.
     

    dreamy76

    Senior Member
    Arabic
    yes that is what I meant , Do those nasals have phonological function?

    Many thanks for your help natkretep.
     
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    Aardvark01

    Senior Member
    British English (Midlands)
    This is a broad question. I could say that yes they do, but each nasal combines with certain consonants and not with others.

    /m/- is a labial so is primarily followed by labials - limps, embroil, campfire ...
    /n/ - is a front palatal sound so is combined with other consonants formed in the same area: ants, enslave, hands...
    or by labials that do not require movement of the tongue: unframed, envy, unpromising, unmoving...
    /ŋ/ - is formed at the back of the palate and lends itself to /g/ and /k/ combinations: wings, inkwell, increase...

    banged I would represent /bæŋgd/ because of the velar plosive produced in moving the tongue to form the /d/
     
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    dreamy76

    Senior Member
    Arabic
    many thanks for the clarification Aardvark01.



    Do those nasals have phonological function?

    Thanks a lot.
     
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    Aardvark01

    Senior Member
    British English (Midlands)
    Do those nasals have phonological function?

    What I understand is that we have no letter in the English alphabet for /ŋ/ even though we use it a lot. Wherever we write an 'n' with a 'k' or 'g', we actually use 'ŋ' in speech. That is, we recognise /ŋ/ as an allophone of /n/.

    The absence of the phonetic symbol means that English native speakers have difficulty pronouncing it without g or k, as in ŋoro ŋoro (Tanzania) which gets anglicised to Ungorogoro.
     

    sokol

    Senior Member
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    What I understand is that we have no letter in the English alphabet for /ŋ/ even though we use it a lot. Wherever we write an 'n' with a 'k' or 'g', we actually use 'ŋ' in speech. That is, we recognise /ŋ/ as an allophone of /n/.
    From the point of view of phonology I fear that I have to disagree.

    A phoneme is the smallest distinct sound unit; an allophone is not a distinct sound but a possible realisation of a phoneme (of which there might be several).
    The English Wiki article on phoneme is quite good and explains the principle.

    To make sure wether a sound is a phoneme or only an allophone you do a minimal pair analysis (also explained in Wiki): you search for two words and compare if a sound makes a distinction of meaning or if it doesn't. For /ŋ/ this is quite difficult because there is no /ŋ/ in initial position and because (at least in English standard language) between vowels (except shwa) /ŋ/ is followed by a /g/ as in 'fi/ŋg/er' but with the help of proper names it is rather easy to find minimal pairs:

    ha
    /ŋ/er - Ha/n/ah
    fli/ŋ/ - Fly/n/
    wro
    /ŋ/ - Ro/n/
    An edit: yes, there are some:
    wi/ŋ/s - wi/n/s
    ba
    /ŋ/ - ba/n/
    ha/ŋ/s - ha/n/ds (not quite, that one, but close) - Ha/n/s (yes, the German name; a little bit far-fetched I admit)

    (There have to be some minimal pairs not involving proper names I think; only I can't think of a single one right now. Native speakers, please help :eek: - most important with such minimal pairs is that all sounds are exactly identical except the one distinct sound = here
    /ŋ/ vs. /n/.)

    The opposition between /n/ and
    /ŋ/ certainly is a rather "weak" one because there are only few minimal pairs, but the opposition nevertheless exists: therefore, /ŋ/ is a phoneme of English.

    (Compare: would it be acceptable for a native speaker to pronounce 'Reagan' like 'Reaga/ŋ/' or 'Flynn' like 'Fly/ŋ/'? - I am sure that this is not the case. Yes, that doesn't classify as minimal pair but the fact that a word could be misinterpreted - clear with 'Flynn', not so with 'Reagan' - indicates further that /ŋ/ has to be a phoneme of English.)
     
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    Aardvark01

    Senior Member
    British English (Midlands)
    ...
    ha/ŋ/er - Ha/n/ah
    fli/ŋ/ - Fly/n/
    wro/ŋ/ - Ro/n/

    ...(Compare: would it be acceptable for a native speaker to pronounce 'Reagan' like 'Reaga/ŋ/' or 'Flynn' like 'Fly/ŋ/'? - I am sure that this is not the case...
    HI sokol,
    To begin with I point out that letters in brackets [ ] are used here to indicate English alphabet while / / indicates a phonetic sound.

    You are correct that they are not interchangeable in this way, but this does not address the context in which /n/ becomes /ŋ/ because these words do not have either [g] or [k] after the [n].

    Merriam-Webster's Onine Dictionary gives this definition of 'allophone':
    : one of two or more variants of the same phoneme <the aspirated \\p\\ of pin and the unaspirated \\p\\ of spin are allophones of the phoneme \\p\\>

    An English speaker can identify the difference in sound between [p] in pin and spin by placing their hand in front of their mouth and feeling the difference in pressure. However, we normally don't realise there is a difference! We see the letter and pronounce the appropriate allophone according to custom rather than realising it sounds like a different phoneme in some other languages.

    Similarly in English the letter [n] is used to represent the sound /n/ unless it appears before [k] or [g] when it becomes /ŋ/. We tend not to notice that we are using a different sound/tongue position in this context. Thus I conclude it is an allophone because one letter [in the English alphabet] points to more than one sound.
     

    sokol

    Senior Member
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    Hi Aardvark01,
    HI sokol,
    To begin with I point out that letters in brackets [ ] are used here to indicate English alphabet while / / indicates a phonetic sound.
    In principle I would have no problem accepting your use of parentesis but it would be somewhat awkward and most likely even misleading to do so as linguists use those brackets like that:
    {ph} = graphemic representation (also used for morphemes)
    /f/ = phonemic level (or in broad transcription also phonetic level)
    [f] = phonetic level = realisation of a phoneme in a given context

    (And as [ ] represent phonetic representation it could be misleading to use them here for graphemic representation.)
    Please note that below I will indicate phonetics by [].

    You are correct that they are not interchangeable in this way, but this does not address the context in which /n/ becomes /ŋ/ because these words do not have either [g] or [k] after the [n].
    You are correct about most of my examples not representing consonant clusters but some did (wi/ŋ/s - wi/n/s & ha/ŋ/s - ha/n/ds) - and I wonder why you didn't quote those.
    The other examples I gave because, as stated, it is difficult to find minimal pairs for this weak phonemical opposition.
    Nevertheless, the point of my post was to show that/ŋ/ indeed is a phoneme of English language. And I don't see evidence disproving this in your post.

    Anyway, let me take you on a short tour through the phonology of English.

    It is of course correct that in English language a consonant cluster [ng nk] does not exist; it has to be [ŋg ŋk].
    In linguistics we call that neutralisation of opposition: there is no distinction between /n/ and /
    ŋ/ before velar consonants. But nevertheless /ŋ/ is a phoneme of English language, the phonemical opposition only is neutralised in this position.

    If phonemical analysis is done according to the principles set by the Cercle linguistique de Prague and Nikolai S. Trubetzkoy we could define an Archiphoneme*) for these positions.
    *)
    I am sorry but I have no online resource for that except the German Wiki article which, above all, isn't even worth translating as it doesn't describe the concept correctly.
    Archiphoneme is an accepted concept in linguistics but some phonologists may prefer other methods in phonemical analysis.

    So, as Wiki is not much use here, see here how an archiphoneme works:
    /N/ = archiphoneme realised either as alveolar or velar nasal (not however, in English, as bilabial nasal)
    ba/Nt/er ~ ba/Nk/er = minimal pair (pronounced [bæntə ~ bæŋkə]

    Here the archiphoneme /N/ is realised either as [n] or [ŋ]; so if you use archiphonemes then those two sounds indeed are an allophone of an archiphoneme: this is very important because an archiphoneme only is defined for a specific phonetic context. To state that /ŋ/ has no phonemic value in English is wrong; also it is wrong to state that /ŋ/ has no phonemic value in consonant clusters.

    Only in certain consonant clusters there is a neutralisation of opposition which could be described as archiphoneme - allophone. This however is not the same as phoneme - allophone. You see, the archiphoneme is only defined for those positions where an opposition is neutralised. It isn't valid for all phonetic possible contexts of a given language.

    I am sure you can much more easily find minimal pairs with /n/ and /ŋ/ in consonant clusters - surely more than I can. Here yet another one, added to those above:
    ba/ŋ/s - ba/n/s

    If you have any further questions about archiphonemes and phonology in general I am prepared to elaborate, of course always with the topic of this thread in mind.
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    From the point of view of phonology I fear that I have to disagree.

    A phoneme is the smallest distinct sound unit; an allophone is not a distinct sound but a possible realisation of a phoneme (of which there might be several).
    The English Wiki article on phoneme is quite good and explains the principle.

    To make sure wether a sound is a phoneme or only an allophone you do a minimal pair analysis (also explained in Wiki): you search for two words and compare if a sound makes a distinction of meaning or if it doesn't. For /ŋ/ this is quite difficult because there is no /ŋ/ in initial position and because (at least in English standard language) between vowels (except shwa) /ŋ/ is followed by a /g/ as in 'fi/ŋg/er' but with the help of proper names it is rather easy to find minimal pairs:

    ha/ŋ/er - Ha/n/ah
    fli/ŋ/ - Fly/n/
    wro/ŋ/ - Ro/n/
    An edit: yes, there are some:
    wi/ŋ/s - wi/n/s
    ba/ŋ/ - ba/n/
    ha/ŋ/s - ha/n/ds (not quite, that one, but close) - Ha/n/s (yes, the German name; a little bit far-fetched I admit)

    (There have to be some minimal pairs not involving proper names I think; only I can't think of a single one right now. Native speakers, please help :eek: - most important with such minimal pairs is that all sounds are exactly identical except the one distinct sound = here /ŋ/ vs. /n/.)

    The opposition between /n/ and /ŋ/ certainly is a rather "weak" one because there are only few minimal pairs, but the opposition nevertheless exists: therefore, /ŋ/ is a phoneme of English.

    (Compare: would it be acceptable for a native speaker to pronounce 'Reagan' like 'Reaga/ŋ/' or 'Flynn' like 'Fly/ŋ/'? - I am sure that this is not the case. Yes, that doesn't classify as minimal pair but the fact that a word could be misinterpreted - clear with 'Flynn', not so with 'Reagan' - indicates further that /ŋ/ has to be a phoneme of English.)
    Another minimal pair is sun/sung.

    Native speakers of a language usually consider one allophone to be the "same sound" as another. In English, for example, the b's in bat and tab are thought of by the ordinary speaker as the same sound, while a phonetician or a teacher of English as a foreign language would immediately recognize them as allophones. There are many languages in which they would be considered "different sounds."

    In the case of /n/ and /ŋ/, native speakers definitely consider them to be separate sounds. Note, for example, that dialects in which /ŋ/ is habitually replaced by /n/ (as in speakin' instead of speaking) stand out to--and are generally looked down upon by --speakers of dialects using /ŋ/, who have a way of showing the lower-status dialect in written form: speakin' for the non-/ŋ/ pronunciation of speaking, for example.
     

    Aardvark01

    Senior Member
    British English (Midlands)
    Hi Aardvark01,

    In principle I would have no problem accepting your use of parentesis but it would be somewhat awkward and most likely even misleading to do so as linguists use those brackets like that:
    {ph} = graphemic representation (also used for morphemes)
    /f/ = phonemic level (or in broad transcription also phonetic level)
    [f] = phonetic level = realisation of a phoneme in a given context

    (And as [ ] represent phonetic representation it could be misleading to use them here for graphemic representation.)
    Please note that below I will indicate phonetics by [].

    Thanks, I shall use {} brackets for English alphabet in future. I must also try to remember the term grapheme = local/language alphabet. I was taught it but couldn't recall it.

    I was taught that IPA was always put between / / as in my Cobuild dictionary. I'm still foggy on the difference between phonemic and phonetic, even having read up on them. International Phonetic Alphabet lead me to think that phonetic sounds were represented.

    You are correct about most of my examples not representing consonant clusters but some did (wi/ŋ/s - wi/n/s & ha/ŋ/s - ha/n/ds) - and I wonder why you didn't quote those.

    Because they were added while I was composing my post. These examples give me a better idea of what you're trying to tell me about minimal pairs. I read the article you suggested but still not confident I understood it.

    The other examples I gave because, as stated, it is difficult to find minimal pairs for this weak phonemical opposition.
    Nevertheless, the point of my post was to show that/ŋ/ indeed is a phoneme of English language. And I don't see evidence disproving this in your post.
    I'm still not clear. The spoken language does contain the sound /ŋ/ but our alphabet doesn't. What is the term for a grapheme that has two sounds associated with if not 'allophone'?

    Anyway, let me take you on a short tour through the phonology of English.

    It is of course correct that in English language a consonant cluster [ng nk] does not exist; it has to be [ŋg ŋk].

    To be clear, did you mean {ng nk}= [ŋg ŋk]?

    In linguistics we call that neutralisation of opposition: there is no distinction between /n/ and /ŋ/ before velar consonants. But nevertheless /ŋ/ is a phoneme of English language, the phonemical opposition only is neutralised in this position.

    If phonemical analysis is done according to the principles set by the Cercle linguistique de Prague and Nikolai S. Trubetzkoy we could define an Archiphoneme*) for these positions.
    *) I am sorry but I have no online resource for that except the German Wiki article which, above all, isn't even worth translating as it doesn't describe the concept correctly. Archiphoneme is an accepted concept in linguistics but some phonologists may prefer other methods in phonemical analysis.



    So, as Wiki is not much use here, see here how an archiphoneme works:
    /N/ = archiphoneme realised either as alveolar or velar nasal (not however, in English, as bilabial nasal)
    ba/Nt/er ~ ba/Nk/er = minimal pair (pronounced [bæntə ~ bæŋkə]

    I found this Wikipedia page useful on this subject. Dreamy76 probably will too: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phoneme
    Only /m/ occurs before /p/,
    only /n/ before /t/, and
    only /ŋ/ before /k/ or /g/.

    Thus we can write: |liNp, liNt, liNk | = {limp, lint, link} = /lImp//lInt//lIŋk/

    To state that /ŋ/ has no phonemic value in English is wrong; also it is wrong to state that /ŋ/ has no phonemic value in consonant clusters.

    I don't think I said it had no phonemic value, but I may have implied it by my misunderstanding of 'phoneme-allophone'. I did not think of them as exclusive one of the other.

    Only in certain consonant clusters there is a neutralisation of opposition which could be described as archiphoneme - allophone. This however is not the same as phoneme - allophone. You see, the archiphoneme is only defined for those positions where an opposition is neutralised. It isn't valid for all phonetic possible contexts of a given language.

    I am sure you can much more easily find minimal pairs with /n/ and /ŋ/ in consonant clusters - surely more than I can. Here yet another one, added to those above:
    ba/ŋ/s - ba/n/s
    So an 'archiphoneme-allophone' is where two IPA characters are non-interchangeable.
    A 'phoneme-allophone' is where they can be interchanged but in doing so change the meaning of the word?
    .
    Thaŋks Sokol,
    I am learning. There are questions within the quoted section above.
     

    sokol

    Senior Member
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    Please, Aardvark01, do not answer within a quote because this makes it very difficult for me to quote. Thanks!
    Nevertheless, the point of my post was to show that/ŋ/ indeed is a phoneme of English language. And I don't see evidence disproving this in your post.
    I'm still not clear. The spoken language does contain the sound /ŋ/ but our alphabet doesn't. What is the term for a grapheme that has two sounds associated with if not 'allophone'?
    Graphemes are irrelevant for phonological analysis.
    The English spelling is irrelevant for phonological analysis.

    Phonology only is concerned about what sounds are distinctive, and what sounds are not.
    The sound /ŋ/ is a distinctive sound in English (it distinguishes words and, thus, meanings). It is not relevant that this sound isn't represented by a grapheme.
    The distinctiveness of /ŋ/ is neutralised before dental and velar plosives but /ŋ/ still is a phoneme as it distinguishes meanings.

    It is of course correct that in English language a consonant cluster [ng nk] does not exist; it has to be [ŋg ŋk].

    To be clear, did you mean {ng nk}= [ŋg ŋk]?
    That is correct.
    But keep in mind that the written representation of sounds = the spelling conventions of a given language are irrelevant to phonological analysis. If it were {gg} = [ŋg] (like it is in Greek) this still would not change results of a phonological analysis.

    I am sure you can much more easily find minimal pairs with /n/ and /ŋ/ in consonant clusters - surely more than I can. Here yet another one, added to those above:
    ba/ŋ/s - ba/n/s
    So an 'archiphoneme-allophone' is where two IPA characters are non-interchangeable.
    A 'phoneme-allophone' is where they can be interchanged but in doing so change the meaning of the word?

    Thaŋks Sokol,
    I am learning. There are questions within the quoted section above
    To state that "/ŋ/ is an allophone of the archiphoneme /N/" means: in some context the opposition between nasals is neutralised and represented by the archiphoneme /N/; thus English language has the following nasal phonemes: /m n ŋ/ and an archiphoneme /N/.

    To state that "
    /ŋ/ is an allophone of the phoneme /n/" means: it has no phonemic value in English, thus this would mean to claim that English only had the following nasal phonemes: /m n/ - period. Which is clearly wrong, right?

    I hope it is clear now. :)


    In the case of /n/ and /ŋ/, native speakers definitely consider them to be separate sounds. Note, for example, that dialects in which /ŋ/ is habitually replaced by /n/ (as in speakin' instead of speaking) stand out to--and are generally looked down upon by --speakers of dialects using /ŋ/, who have a way of showing the lower-status dialect in written form: speakin' for the non-/ŋ/ pronunciation of speaking, for example.
    This is a good additional argument in phonology if the phonemic value of a sound is not very clear or disputed - but in itself it is not enough to define a sound as a phoneme because it is entirely possible that an allophone (a sound which never has any phonemic value) is clearly differentiated by native speakers (and that an allophone is cause for social stigma).
    It is a nice example nevertheless. :)
     
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