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Nasalisation in English: phonology or phonetics*

  • Abigail C. Cohn (a1)

In English, a number of rules affect the realisation of a nasal consonant or a segment adjacent to a nasal consonant. These include rules of Anticipatory Nasalisation, e.g. bean /bin/ [bĩn]; Coronal Stop Deletion, e.g. kindness /kajndnes/ [kãjnnes]; Nasal Deletion and optionally Glottalisation, e.g. sent /sent/ [set] or [set'] (see Malécot 1960; Selkirk 1972; Kahn 1980 [1976]; Zue & Laferriere 1979). These rules, characterised largely on the basis of impressionistic data, are widely assumed to be phonological rules of English. Yet current views of the relationship between phonology and phonetics make the distinction between phono-logical rules and phonetic ones less automatic than once assumed and a reconsideration of the status of these rules is warranted. In the present article, I use phonetic data from English to investigate these rules. Based on these data, I argue that Anticipatory Nasalisation results from phonetic implementation rather than from a phonological rule, as previously assumed. It is shown that the basic patterns of nasalisation in English can be accounted for straightforwardly within a target-interpolation model. I then investigate the phonological status and phonetic realisation of Nasal Deletion, Coronal Stop Deletion and Glottalisation. The interaction of these rules yields some surprising results, in that glottalised /t/ [t'] is amenable to nasalisation.

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