Akan Teleteaching Course

Unit 2.5: Notes on pronunciation 4

Advanced exercise:

Describe the rules which govern the co-distribution of consonants and vowels. [E.g. back consonants select back vowels, but not vice versa. Palatalised, but not labio-palatalised consonants and back vowels are generally mutually exclusive in the same word.] The logical consequence is to consider the palatalised and the back series as variants (allophones) in complementary distribution. There has been/is a lively debate going on among Akan phonologists regarding this question. Part of the question is the exact phonetic nature of palatalisation and labio-palatalisation in Akan. What exactly happens when Akan speaker palatalise or palatalise and labialise at the same time. Another issue is the phonetic and phonological effects of palatalisation on 'a' - the consequence could be either a 9-vowel system or, alternatively, a fully symmetrical 10-vowel system with /a1-a2/ participating at the phonological level in the vowel harmony dichotomy.


Research Notes

Palatalisation: Boadi (1963, 1988), Mensah (1977: 82)

Understanding palatalisation (Boadi, 1988: 3 ff.):

"… either (i) a synchronic or diachronic shift towards the palatal region; or (ii) the simultaneous raising of the front of the tongue towards the hard palate during the formation of a major stricture in the production of a non-palatal consonant."

"The first type results from a shift of the primary stricture. In the second type, the major point of articulation remains outside the palatal area, while the secondary stricture is superimposed giving the articulation a front-vowel colouring." (Boadi, 1988: 5)

"as we and others have argued, the palatals and velars are conditioned variants." (Boadi, 1988: 12)

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