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Article

Number Marking in Nouns and Adjectives in the Romance Languages  

Franck Floricic

Even though Romance languages are taken to be well-known because of their clearly identified ancestor, they continuously offer a source of patterns and phenomena that are far from being properly taken into account in typological surveys. Corbett rightly pointed out that the question of number has erroneously been held to be simple and straightforward. Needless to say, if many Romance varieties suffer from endangerment or from sociological marginalization, other varieties like French are in some sense trapped in the ice of their norm and such a situation may lead in some cases to questionable analyses. Any French speaker will hold that the feminine of adjectives such as natif [naˈtif] ‘native’ is formed by substituting [f] for [v] and adding final -e at the orthographic level, hence the feminine singular form native [naˈtiv], as in, say, vert-e ‘green’. It is clear, however, that the opposition between natif and native relies on voice-alternation of the adjective final consonant. Various examples of this kind can be adduced to show how phonetic processes contribute to morphological oppositions.

Article

The Phonetics of Babbling  

Susan Rvachew and Abdulsalam Alhaidary

Babbling is made up of meaningless speechlike syllables called canonical syllables. Canonical syllables are characterized by the coordination of consonantal and vocalic elements in syllables that have speechlike timing, phonation, and resonance characteristics. Infants begin to babble on average at approximately seven months of age. Babbling continues in parallel with less mature noncanonical vocalizations that make up the majority of utterances through the first year. Babbling also continues in parallel with the emergence of meaningful speech during the second year. Regardless of the language that the infant is learning, most canonical syllables have a CV shape with the consonant being a labial or alveolar stop or nasal and the vowel most likely to be central or low- to mid-front in place (e.g., [bʌ], [da], [mæ]). Approximately 15% of canonical utterances consist of multisyllable strings; in other words, most babbled utterances contain only a single CV syllable. The onset of the canonical babbling stage is crucially dependent upon normal hearing, permitting access to language input and feedback of self-produced speech. Many studies have reported differences in the phonetic and acoustic characteristics of babble produced by infants learning different languages. These differences include the frequency with which certain consonants are produced, the location, size, and shape of the vowel space, and the rhythmic and intonation qualities of multisyllable babbles, in each case reflecting specificities of the input language. However, replications of these findings are rare and further research is required to better understand the learning mechanisms that underlie language specific acquisition of articulatory representations during the prelinguistic stage of vocal development.

Article

The Source–Filter Theory of Speech  

Isao Tokuda

In the source-filter theory, the mechanism of speech production is described as a two-stage process: (a) The air flow coming from the lungs induces tissue vibrations of the vocal folds (i.e., two small muscular folds located in the larynx) and generates the “source” sound. Turbulent airflows are also created at the glottis or at the vocal tract to generate noisy sound sources. (b) Spectral structures of these source sounds are shaped by the vocal tract “filter.” Through the filtering process, frequency components corresponding to the vocal tract resonances are amplified, while the other frequency components are diminished. The source sound mainly characterizes the vocal pitch (i.e., fundamental frequency), while the filter forms the timbre. The source-filter theory provides a very accurate description of normal speech production and has been applied successfully to speech analysis, synthesis, and processing. Separate control of the source (phonation) and the filter (articulation) is advantageous for acoustic communications, especially for human language, which requires expression of various phonemes realized by a flexible maneuver of the vocal tract configuration. Based on this idea, the articulatory phonetics focuses on the positions of the vocal organs to describe the produced speech sounds. The source-filter theory elucidates the mechanism of “resonance tuning,” that is, a specialized way of singing. To increase efficiency of the vocalization, soprano singers adjust the vocal tract filter to tune one of the resonances to the vocal pitch. Consequently, the main source sound is strongly amplified to produce a loud voice, which is well perceived in a large concert hall over the orchestra. It should be noted that the source–filter theory is based upon the assumption that the source and the filter are independent from each other. Under certain conditions, the source and the filter interact with each other. The source sound is influenced by the vocal tract geometry and by the acoustic feedback from the vocal tract. Such source–filter interaction induces various voice instabilities, for example, sudden pitch jump, subharmonics, resonance, quenching, and chaos.