Tongue Retraction in Arabic: An Ultrasound Study

Hamed Altairi, Jason Brown, Catherine Watson, Bryan Gick


A common analysis for Arabic emphatics and pharyngeals posits that their commonalities are due to the shared feature [RTR]. This, however, does not account for some phonological processes, and does not reflect their phonetic representation. This study provides ultrasound evidence that emphatics and pharyngeals do not exhibit a similar retraction of the tongue. Results indicate that while tongue retraction for the emphatics is characterized with simultaneous tongue dorsum and root retraction, the pharyngeals lower the tongue dorsum. Unlike the pharyngeals, the tongue root retraction of the emphatics and uvulars is always posterior to the tongue root position of the inter-speech posture. Such a consistent and significant displacement confirms that [RTR] is an active feature for the emphatics and uvulars. This is also evident from the retraction of following low vowels triggered by the emphatics and uvulars. These phonetic findings suggest that the pharyngeals and emphatics have different phonological representations.


Tongue Retraction; Emphatics; Pharyngeals; Uvulars; Ultrasound

Full Text:



Copyright (c) 2017 Hamed Altairi, Jason Brown, Catherine Watson, Bryan Gick

License URL: