Coarticulation with alveopalatal sibilants in Mandarin and Polish: Phonetics or phonology?

Ivy Hauser


Previous work has shown that vowels following alveopalatal sibilants typically exhibit raised second formant (F2) values, typically attributed to coarticulatory vowel fronting (e.g. Stevens, 2004 in Mandarin; Bukmaier & Harrington, 2016 in Polish). This paper re-examines the palatalizing coarticulatory effects of the alveopalatal sibilant in Mandarin and Polish. While previous studies have focused on differences in F2 transitions or values at vowel onset, I find that the raised F2 values following alveopalatal sibilants frequently persist through the entire duration of following vowels in Mandarin. This raises the question of whether this is a phonetic coarticulation effect or a phonological assimilation effect. I review diagnostics for such a distinction and provide evidence from speech rate which suggests that the raised F2 effect should be analyzed as phonological assimilation in Mandarin, but phonetic coarticulation in Polish. These results have implications for phonological representations and perception in both languages.


Mandarin; Polish; Palatalization; Phonetics

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