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An articulatory view of Kinyarwanda coronal harmony*

  • Rachel Walker (a1), Dani Byrd (a1) and Fidèle Mpiranya (a2)

Coronal harmony in Kinyarwanda causes alveolar fricatives to become postalveolar preceding a postalveolar fricative within a stem. Alveolar and postalveolar stops, affricates and palatals block coronal harmony, but the flap and non-coronal consonants are reported to be transparent. Kinematic data on consonant production in Kinyarwanda were collected using electromagnetic articulography. The mean angle for the line defined by receivers placed on the tongue tip and blade was calculated over the consonant intervals. Mean angle reliably distinguished alveolar and postalveolar fricatives, with alveolars showing a lower tip relative to blade. Mean angle during transparent non-coronal consonants showed a higher tip relative to blade than in contexts without harmony, and the mean angle during transparent [m] was not significantly different than during postalveolar fricatives. This is consistent with a model where Kinyarwanda coronal harmony extends a continuous tip-blade gesture, causing it to be present during ‘transparent’ segments, but without perceptible effect.

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