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Co-Articulation between Consonant and Vowel in Cantonese Syllables

Authors: Wai-Sum Lee


This study investigates C-V and V-C co-articulation in Cantonese monosyllables of the CV, VC or CVC structure, with C = one of the three stop consonants [p, t, k] and V = one of the three corner vowels [i, a, u]. Five repetitions of each test syllable on a randomized list were elicited from Cantonese young adult speakers in their early-20s. A research tool, EMA AG500, was used to record the synchronized audio signals and articulatory data at three different locations of the tongue – tongue tip, tongue middle, and tongue back – and the positions of the upper and lower lips during the test syllables. The main findings based on the articulatory data collected from two male Cantonese speakers are as follows: (i) For the syllable-initial [p-], strong co-articulation is observed when [p-] preceding the high vowel [i] or [u], but not the low vowel [a]. As for the syllable-final [-p], it is strongly co-articulated with the preceding vowel, even when the vowel is [a]. (ii) The co-articulation between the initial [t-] and the following vowel of any type is weak. In the syllable-final position, the degree of co-articulatory resistance of [-t] is also large when following the vowel [u], but [-t] is largely co-articulated with the preceding vowel when the vowel is [i] or [a]. (iii) The strength of co-articulation differs when the initial [k-] precedes the different types of vowel. A stronger co-articulation between [k-] and [i] than between [k-] and [u], and the strength of co-articulation is much reduced between [k-] and [a]. However, in the syllable-final position, there is strong co-articulation between [-k] and the preceding vowel [a]. (iv) Among the three types of stop consonants in the syllable-initial position, the decreasing degree of co-articulatory resistance (CR) is [t-] > [k-] > [p-], and the degree of CR is reduced during all three types of stop in the syllable-final position. In general, the data on co-articulation between consonant and vowel in the Cantonese monosyllables are similar to those in other languages reported in previous studies.

Keywords: Cantonese, co-articulation, consonant, vowel.

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