Continuant Devoicing in Turkish: Reanalysis of Turkish Word-Final Devoicing


  • Ümit Can Tunçer Boğaziçi University
  • Ezgi Sanıyar Boğaziçi University



phonetic analysis, Turkish, continuant devoicing, sonorants, fricatives, word-final devoicing, rhotic


Previous research shows that Turkish voiced stops and affricates undergo devoicing in word-final position. There are some grammars claiming that rhotic [ɾ] is also affected by this phenomenon (Göksel & Kerslake, 2005 and Taylan, 2015) as well as liquid sonorants ([l] and [ʎ]) which can optionally undergo word-final devoicing, at least in the Istanbul dialect of Turkish (Kornfilt, 1990). This study tests the continuant consonants in Turkish for their devoicing properties in different environments. These environments include preceding phonemes of different voicing qualities, word-final position, sentence-final position, and isolation. Our experiment examines all the voiced continuant sounds of Turkish that can naturally occur in word-final positions ([ɾ], [l], [ɫ], [ʎ], [j], [v], [β], [z], and [ʒ]). The experiment involves 10 Turkish-speaking participants from different regional backgrounds in Turkey. Sets of words and sentences focusing on the target phones and environments were presented to the participants to read out loud while recording. The findings suggest that word-final devoicing does extend to the [+cont] consonants of Turkish in the word-final position, though it shows variance among the participants. This phonological process seems to be optional unlike stop devoicing in Turkish which is a systematic process. Another finding, also observed by Nichols (2016) for the rhotic only, was that the majority of the instances where “word-final” devoicing occurred, was in fact exclusively in utterance-final position. Environments that can be considered word-final but not utterance final, yielded mostly fully voiced consonants, showing evidence for [+cont] consonants having their own separate set of phonological rules and environments for devoicing than stop consonants. Overall, this analysis suggests an environment of devoicing for [+cont] consonants (voiced fricatives and non-nasal sonorants) in Turkish and reanalyzes the rhotic [ɾ] devoicing which was previously described as word-final only, similar to the stop consonants.