Reshaping Phonetics

in Explorations in Renaissance Culture
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This paper proposes that the fundamental categories in phonetics are not “segment” and “suprasegmental”, but rather “segment” and “phonation”, which result from the articulatory activities in the vocal tract and the phonatory activities at the glottis respectively. The “phonatory activities” consist of four sub-categories: phonationals (phonation modes), sub-phonationals (sub-phonation modes), supra-phonationals and quasi-phonationals. There are six types and twelve sub-types of phonation modes in linguistic phonetics, which can be used to define three tonal registers in syllabics (syllable-based phonology). Under such an analysis, pitch and length are not suprasegmentals, but rather supra-phonationals. The so-called quasi-phonationals refer to two kinds of laryngeal activities, implosive and ejective, which are classified as “non-pulmonic” consonants in traditional phonetics. This new “vocal tract – laryngeal” dichotomy system not only covers the former “segment and suprasegmental” system, but can serve to categorize the world’s languages and to illuminate the transition from polysyllabic accentual languages to monosyllabic tonal languages. Finally, a hypothesis that breathy voice results from humid climates is put forward.

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