Phonetic vs. phonological categories:
ATR/RTR vs. tense/lax vowels
1. Vowel inventories
- The 'basic' vowel inventory consists of 5-6 vowels; [i e a o u] is a very common inventory
- Many languages do distinguish additional categories
- WALS map
of vowel inventory size — red symbols indicate inventories larger than 6
- One source of further distinctions in some languages is the contrastive use of rounding (see Vowel Lab)
- Today's discussion: Distinctions such as [i u] vs. [ɪ ʊ]; [e o] vs. [ɛ ɔ]
- How are these distinctions represented on the official IPA chart?
- What is known about the way these vowels pattern phonetically and phonologically?
2. "Tense and lax" vowels
- Terms used for vowel categories in languages like English, German:
tense ≅ long; lax ≅ short
- There are phonological/phonotactic diagnostics for assigning a vowel to the tense or lax sets
- For English as well as German, only tense vowels can occur in a stressed open syllable
3. "ATR and RTR" vowels
- ATR = advanced tongue root
RTR = retracted tongue root
- Conventions for transcribing ATR/RTR vowels
- Same symbols as for tense (=ATR), lax (=RTR) vowels
- IPA diacritics: [ i̘ ] (ATR), [ i̙ ] (RTR)
- Other historic/idiosyncratic conventions, such as a dot diacritic below a vowel symbol
- Examples, from the UCLA Phonetics Lab web site — see maps, X-rays (Akan), sound files
- The classes of ATR and RTR vowels can be phonologically relevant
4. Are these distinctions the same thing?
- Are tense/lax vowels in German or English phonetically the same as ATR/RTR vowels in Akan or Ijo?
- see Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996) reading for discussion
- Is it safe to draw conclusions from this about whether tense/lax vowels in German or English are phonologically classified with a phonological feature [± ATR]?