Both autosegmental representations (e.g. McCarthy, 1981, 1982, 1989; Prince, 1987; Archangeli, 1985; Steriade, 1986) and analyses of articulatory and acoustic data (e.g. Joos, 1948; Öhman, 1966, 1967; Fowler, 1980, 1981, 1983) suggest that vowels and consonants can appear independent of one another. In phenomena such as vowel harmony, phonological processes involving vowels sometimes operate as if an intervocalic consonant were absent; likewise, consonantal harmony processes or co-occurrence restrictions may ignore intervening vowels. In speech production, it has been suggested that there are distinct, identifiable vowels and consonants, but that the two classes of sounds may be produced at least partially simultaneously. It is hypothesized that these periods of simultaneous production (“coproduction”, as discussed in Fowler, 1980) are responsible for the context-dependent influences of vowels on consonants, and vice versa.
This study focuses on the organization of the temporal relations between vowels and consonants. It is proposed that languages may choose among alternative ways of coordinating vowels and consonants, and that these alternatives underlie differing prosodic properties that languages exhibit, such as the timing patterns traditionally described as stress-, syllable- or mora-timing. The approach taken here involves defining consonants and vowels in terms of articulatory gestures, following Browman and Goldstein's Articulatory Phonology (e.g. Browman & Goldstein, 1986, 1992). This framework provides a phonological description that explicitly specifies how consonants and vowels are produced, making it possible to predict how differences in articulatory coordination could result in different prosodic characteristics.
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