Talk:Stop consonant

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oral stop vs. nasal stop[edit]

I direct Eequor to some elementary phonetics. Stops occlude the oral cavity, Eequor. That's the accepted definition. If you want to suggest that "nasal stops" are so-called, bring some cites.Dr Zen 06:02, 9 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Lecture notes do not form a compelling argument, and these happen to be incorrect. Stops block airflow completely; otherwise they are not "stops". In both English and the International Phonetic Alphabet, the nasal stops are all digraphs. Neither "m" nor "n" represents a stop. --[[User:Eequor|ᓛᖁ♀]] 06:40, 9 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Rubbish. Bring a cite, Eequor. I don't have to make a compelling argument. You do. I'm stating the commonly held view. I did you the favour of posting something elementary for you to begin with. Have another. Another. Another. Even my dictionary so defines a stop and of course so does Britannica. What does being a digraph have to do with it? Do you know what a digraph is. Give you a clue. The sound written in English "ch" is a digraph in the IPA. None of the sounds written "m", "n" or "ng" is. All are written with one character.Dr Zen 06:55, 9 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I had given a source, but I guess you reverted too quickly to see it. For what it's worth, my dictionary contains the unambiguous definition "an articulation that interrupts the flow of air from the lungs". If you're going to define a stop as "closing the oral cavity", then you'll have to find a way to explain how the glottal stop affects the mouth at all. Besides, in the current article, claiming that "m" and "n" are stops contradicts the definition of "stop" in the articulation section.
  • First, the oral cavity is closed.
This is at least true of "m" and "n".
  • then, it stays closed causing pressure to build up;
Okay, where is there a pressure build up? These still allow airflow.
  • Finally, the closure is suddenly opened; the released airflow produces a sudden impulse in pressure causing an audible sound. This third phase is called release of the stop.
When are these considered to have a release? Where is the release in "wing"?
It should be quite obvious that this definition is in contradiction with your idea of nasal stops. Unless the definition can be changed to accommodate both the glottal stop and the nasals (I doubt that it can), you will only confuse readers.
Now, consider what it means that IPA uses a digraph for "proper" nasal stops. These are [mb], [nk], [kn], etc. They are recognized as a nasal and a stop and composed of two distinct sounds, not a single "nasal stop". This should indicate that nasals and stops are, in fact, not the same thing.
This almost, but not quite, corresponds to English usage; the main differences in English are words like "numb" or "wing", which used to contain stops but do not anymore ([nʌm] and [wɪŋ]). Notice that English "ng" is often a single character [ŋ] in IPA, and a nasal.
Leaving the nasals to their own article allows us to make a meaningful definition of "stop"; including them in this article leads one to ask "What makes these stops?" --[[User:Eequor|ᓛᖁ♀]] 19:10, 9 Dec 2004 (UTC)
The thing is, both definitions are found in Linguistics. Some use one definition, some the other. So we shouldn't elect one of them, but show both. And I thought the article did show both before your correction.
One thing is sure: the term nasal stop is not used for clusters like [mb], [nk], [nt]. These are either called clusters or, if they're not considered clusters, prenasalized stops.
Nasals do have releases (but in English, final nasals may lack it). If you say nose but hold your nose, you'll pronounce something like dose, with a clearly audible release. (The release is also audible if you don't hold your nose, of course.)
As for the second phase: I hesitate to drop the formulation with the pressure, since I think that also with the nasal way open, the inside pressure still needs to be bigger than the outside pressure. If it weren't, the air wouldn't flow outside, and no sound would be produced at all. J. 'mach' wust 21:50, 9 Dec 2004 (UTC)
The mention of pressure is dubious; there exist implosive stops. In these, there is an internal decrease in pressure, not a buildup. We might say there is a significant pressure difference. --[[User:Eequor|ᓛᖁ♀]] 22:44, 9 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I don't think that phonoaesthetics link is appropiate. There's nothing about the articulation of stops, and it's a very disputed theory. I guess most wouldn't consider it cientific. J. 'mach' wust 21:50, 9 Dec 2004 (UTC)

The way the page currently reads and the discussion of nasal stops, prenasalized stops, and postnasalized stops is correct. I don't have my copy of Ladefoged and Maddieson's Sounds of the World's Languages with me here at work, but I have it at home and will post relevant quotations later. Dictionary definitions etc. that define a stop as a complete blockage of airflow doesn't reflect the technicalities considered by most phoneticians. The term nasal stop is frequently (and not necessarily incorrectly) used to refer to the sounds [m], [n], etc. Stop as considered by phoneticians, refers to occlusion in the vocal tract, not the cessation of airflow. The flow of air through the nasal cavity is not generally considered relevant to whether a particular articulatory configuration constitutes a "stop". On the other hand, most sounds that are considered stops do have complete stoppage of airflow, and so one often finds defintions that define stop that way. But those definitions don't really account for the fact that people often talk of "nasal stops". It is this very confusion that caused the IPA to adopt the term plosives in lieu of stop, as plosives are defined not by the occlusion of airflow, but by the release of built-up pressure, which can be from reduced airflow in a nasal stop, or from complete occlusion of airflow.

Also, I would add that from an articulatory perspective, oral stops and nasal stops are very similar—the only difference is in the position of velum. It often makes sense to group them together and the word "stop" works well for this. Nohat 22:06, 9 Dec 2004 (UTC)

I'll say. When I did articulatory phonetics, my tutor demonstrated this by simply having us articulate a "d", holding it and then "nasalising" it (which we know to do without being told by simply lowering the velum). It astonished us, because you don't think of "n" that way.Dr Zen 00:03, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)

For an example of this dispute within the linguistics community, see [1]. Nohat 22:14, 9 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Well, Ladefoged and Maddieson eschew "stop" for nasals, but importantly they acknowledge that the word is used that way by some linguists. The matter is therefore one that is disputed. This article should present that dispute neutrally, offering both points of view without acknowledging either as "correct". The quotation, from page 102, is "Note that what we call simply nasals are called nasal stops by some linguists. We avoid this phrase, preferring to reserve the term 'stop' for sounds in which there is a complete interruption of airflow." So, certainly some linguists (prominent phoneticists, even) take Eequor's view that it's only a stop if there's complete interruption of airflow. But plenty other linguists call them nasal stops. Nohat 04:56, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Well, Eequor should cite Ladefoged and Maddieson and then I will cite just a few of the many, many linguists who disagree with that view. (I have even seen people quoting Ladefoged and pointing out that by "nasals" he means "nasal stops"! This is because, one must assume, the authors do not want to give the impression that they are talking about nasal vowels.) There's no problem at all with noting that there is a view that "stop" should be restricted to sounds that involve a complete interruption of airflow, but a definite one in making that the upfront viewpoint of this article.Dr Zen 05:19, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Actually the article should have no "upfront viewpoint". Indeed the only viewpoint it should should be the neutral one. The article should present the sounds that everyone agrees are stops, then it can discuss nasal stops and say that the status of nasal stops as stops is disputed, and some linguists call them just "nasals". Wording it neutrally will be tricky, but it must be done. And in order to do that, we must first accept that there is no "right" answer, just two different ones that must be handled equally. Nohat 06:09, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Clearly, if it is to say what "stops" are it must give an upfront view. I refer you to the following: "Articles that compare views need not give minority views as much or as detailed a description as more popular views. We should not attempt to represent a dispute as if a view held by only a small minority of people deserved as much attention as a majority view." In fact, this article does not "compare views". The facts are what is in dispute. On the one side is Eequor and Ladefoged (the latter rather tenuously so -- I can't remember how exactly he distinguishes "n" from "d" on their features, although I'm familiar with his feature system as an item of history), on the other, everyone else. It's a flat earth thing. We say that the earth is a planet that orbits the sun, not that it's a planet and maybe it does orbit the sun, maybe it doesn't. We do justice to the alternative view by mentioning it, not featuring it. Dr Zen 06:30, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I don't think that this is really a fair description of the dispute. Ladefoged and Maddieson are widely considered to be two of the foremost experts in the world on phonetics. Their position on what is and isn't a stop is well-respected and even held by many linguists. This isn't a absurdly illogical idea like flat Earth theory—they're just clarifying the definition of a technical term in a particular way that not all linguists agree on. These guys are considered the experts and SOWL is the reigning reference book on phonetics. If ever there were a dispute where both views deserve equal time, this is it. For example, in the Handbook of the International Phonetic Alphabet, the word stop is very carefully never used to describe sounds. They use only plosive and nasal. Do you really think they would have done that if there were only one crackpot at UCLA who didn't think nasals were stops? Look, I agree that grouping oral and nasal stops together often makes sense, but defining stop as a complete stoppage of airflow is really not totally unreasonable. Nohat 20:51, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)
I totally agree that both positions need to be described from a neutral point of view. However, I don't see whether we have to change anything, since it seems to me that the article currently describes both positions without giving preference to either. I'm not able to judge whether either position is more popular than the other. I suppose this would require a great amount of research. I also believe that there's no unique answer, but that there are different preferences in different cultures of linguistics. J. 'mach' wust 11:47, 11 Dec 2004 (UTC)

The problem with Eequor's position is quite simply that she is insisting that because the word "stop" is used for these consonants, they must involve a complete stoppage of airflow. This has never been a commonly held view in linguistics quite simply because it does not capture the relationship between dental, alveolar or velar consonants and nasals (many languages make use of nasalisation as a means of marking syntactic relations -- Welsh is a good example -- and this makes a lot more sense when analysed as the addition of a feature rather than as a completely different articulation.) Dr Zen 00:03, 10 Dec 2004 (UTC)


i think that more could be said about VOT. one thing i want to mention is that phonological voicing may not correspond to phonetic voicing, as in English and many other languages (i.e. voiced stops are not voiced).

any thoughts about where to discuss this? here or a separate Voice Onset Time article?

- Ish ishwar 21:07, 2005 Mar 10 (UTC)

Nonexplosive stops[edit]

I'd like to add a link to nonexplosive stop to the artitcle, but I'm not quite sure where to put it. Under "airstream mechanism"? --Ptcamn 10:30, 15 June 2006 (UTC)

/n/ and /m/ are not stops[edit]

Reading Answers' definition of "continuant" clears the air without doubt. And for those still confused "n" and "m" are sounds that can be continued as long as you have breath in your lungs... hence they are quite obviously called "continuants" because you can continue them. "Stops" imply something abrupt so any sound that cannot be continued but is rather described as a sudden sound is a "stop". --Glengordon01 01:59, 28 September 2006 (UTC)

By the way, we can't pretend that it's more common to say "nasal stops". When people say "stops", more often *total* cut-off of airflow is implied, not partial. So "nasal continuant" is the greater norm as per this article.
Plus, there's a marked difference between the class of sounds that stop airflow completely (/d/, /t/, etc, aka "true stops") and those that allow nasal airflow (/m/, /n/, etc, aka "continuants") so these two classes of sounds should not be mixed together as equivalent. It's really really confusing. --Glengordon01 02:09, 28 September 2006 (UTC)
Okay, after googling, I notice that there's a war going on about the definition of "nasal stop". The funny thing is, studying Indo-European for so long, I don't recall "m" or "n" refered to as "stops" so it seems like these definitions differ between different areas of linguistics? Odd.
So I think we really need to try to word this to be sensitive to the differing definitions of "nasal stop" and yes, /n/ and /m/ are also called "nasal continuants" which is the term I'm more familar with. Sigh. Crazy world. Sorry. --Glengordon01 02:27, 28 September 2006 (UTC)
Hi. Nasal is a short way to say nasal stop, stop is short for oral stop. This is not always made clear in introductory material. The term nasal continuant appears to me to be an older term that predates modern phonological theory's concept of distinctive features. However, I havent looked into the history of this usage. The paper you cite is indeed from an earlier time. If you look at an introductory phonology textbook (published in the last 20 years), you will see that nasals are considered to be non-continuants (i.e. stops). This is common at least since Noam Chomsky & Morris Halle's Sound Pattern of English (1968) with the feature of [-continuant]. The feature [continuant] means that the primary constriction in vocal tract does not block air flow. You can capture what you say about air flow with the feature [sonorant], which in Chomsky & Halle's terms means that the vocal tract configuration allows for spontaneous voicing. Anyway, you will need to look in a phonology book rather than in a dictionary or on the internet (unless you can find a book on the internet). peace – ishwar  (speak) 17:11, 28 September 2006 (UTC)

Your belief that nasal continuant is outdated seems to be a little hasty.

  • Discontinuous Nasal Spread In Yaminahua, Eugene E. Loos, Dallas: SIL International, 2006:
"Acoustically, the consonants [m] and [n] are continuants (in the nasal cavity); articulatorily, they are stops (in the oral cavity)."
  • Fusion and the Acquisition of s-nasal Clusters, Rebecca Hanson, University of Calgary:
"The proposal that nasals can be represented in two ways is offered by Piggott (1992). Research into the cross-linguistic behavior of nasality led him to propose that [nasal] could be a dependent of either the SV node or what he calls the Soft Palate (SP) node. My proposal is very similar, but instead of adding an SP node to the hierarchy in (6), I will make use of the Airflow node. Briefly, I suggest that continuancy can be either oral or nasal depending on the direction of the air flow (which is, incidentally, determined by the action of the soft palate), therefore nasals do not actually involve a total obstruction of the air. It is for this same reason that Ladefoged & Maddieson (1996) avoid using the term ‘nasal stop’ to refer to nasals."

And then we must ask why Ladefoged & Maddieson avoid the term "nasal stop", having published something only in the past decade if it's true that this view is outdated. On the contrary, the confusion has just begun!

It looks like the article "Nasal consonant" on Wikipedia currently explains that a "nasal stop" is also a "nasal sonorant". That's great if you don't think about that... but sometimes I need to drink my arse off just to stop my brain from thinking at night ;) The same article says that a "sonorant" contrasts with the term "obstruent" to which the category of "stop" belongs. Say what? So... does that mean "sonorant" should also be subdivided into things like "stops"? And then if so, how can it be said that they truly oppose each other?

Then this article currently says:

"Nasal stops are acoustically sonorants, as they have a non-turbulent airflow and are nearly always voiced, but they are articulatorily obstruents, as there is complete blockage of the oral cavity." Okay, so it seems that we've come full circle only to realize that these terms are all... meaningless >:P

I think the real problem lies in the fact that many of us here are looking at this from different areas of study within linguistics, using the terms for different purposes. It sounds like your area is specifically structural linguistics. However as I explained above, my area of knowledge is specifically comparative linguistics and comparative linguists have their own secret code. They've been known to stretch the general usage of common linguistic terminology. For example, IEists use "labiovelar" to only refer to labialized velars like *kʷ. It's a shorthand kinda thing. Other reconstructed sounds called "laryngeals" are not necessarily laryngeal either but this has become part of the "code" which to an outsider would naturally seem confusing.

So back to my point, this article is a minefield of potential confusion if things aren't worded just right, whether it be for linguistic neophytes or for people delving in specialized areas. Sorry, I'm a badNewsBear. --Glengordon01 01:08, 1 October 2006 (UTC)

Hi. Well, we should look at what these L&M actually say. Here are is a quote from Ladefoged's phonetic textbook (pp. 8-9, 3rd ed.):
" Nasal stop If the air is stopped in the oral cavity but the soft palate is down so that it can go out through the nose, the sound is a nasal stop.... Although both the nasal sounds and the oral sounds can be classified as stops, the term stop by itself is almost always used by phoneticians to indicate an oral stop, and the term nasal to indicate a nasal stop.... Although the term stop may be defined so that it applies only to the prevention of air escaping through the mouth, it is commonly used to imply a complete stoppage of the airflow through both the nose and the mouth."
Here are quotes from L&M:
"A nasal consonant is one in which the velum is lowered and there is a closure in the oral cavity somewhere in front of the velic opening. Hence, air from the lungs is directed out through the nasal passage alone. Note that what we call simply nasals are called nasal stops by some linguists. We avoid this phrase, prefering to reserve the term 'stop' for sounds in which there is a complete interruption of airflow.... Nasals have an articulatory similarity to stops by virtue of their oral closure, but in other respects they are similar to approximants. This is because there is an uninterrupted outward flow of air that does not pass through a constriction sufficiently narrow to produce local turbulence." (pp. 102-103)
"The aerodynamic and acoustic consequences of a lowered velum depend very much on whether or not there is a concurrent oral or glottal occlusion. In accord with this, we follow traditional phonetics and make a strict distinction between nasals and nasalized sounds. Only when a lowered velum is combined with a forward oral occlusion are members of the class of consonants we call nasals produced. Accompanying any other articulation a lowered velum produces a nasalized sound. In traditional phonetic classification the major consonant manner classes consist of those based on degree of stricture, i.e. stops, fricatives, and approximants, plus nasals. In this classification these classes form a mutual exclusive set. A segment cannot be both a nasal and a stop; similarily it cannot be both a nasal and a fricative or a nasal and an approximant. The significance of these classes is shown by the fact that the great majority of the world's languages include members of each class, whereas nasalized consonants are comparatively rare in the world's languages, and frequently are only derived surface segments. In nasalized sounds, the major manner class of a segment is determined by the degree of stricture of the oral articulation. Although nasality is an accompanying feature, a nasalized fricative, say, is still a fricative acoustically as well as in terms of distributional privileges and syllabification. Although what we call nasals have been called 'nasal stops' by others, they are not straightforwardly the nasalized equivalents of plosives in the same way that and are the nasalized equivalents of v and j. Nasals are acoustically continuant, characterized by a steady state. And they are often distributed in a way that is parallel to liquids and other sonorants, rather than to stops.
"Nonetheless, the same articulatory property, a lowered velum, distinguishes nasals from plosives as distinguishes nasalized fricatives and approximants (and vowels) from their non-nasalized counterparts. In articulatory terms a single classificatory feature [nasal] is all that a phonetic theory requires to account for both nasal and nasalized segments. Furthermore, there is no need for more than the indication of the presence or absence of nasality. At least as far as consonants are concerned, we need to indicate only whether the velic aperture is open or closed, since there is no evidence that degrees of opening are linguistically relevant.... We recognize that nasals are characterized by the [stop] value of the feature [Stricture]; they are distinguished from stops by being [+nasal], a specification that applies also to nasalized consonants.
"Using the same feature may appear to overlook the differences between nasals and nasalized fricatives, nasalized approximants and nasalized glottal stops that we have stressed above. However, there are very close relationships between nasals and nasalized segments, especially in assimilatory rules, that require expression. Nasalized segments often occur contiguous to nasals, and in a few languages, such as Niaboua, nasals occur in place of voiced plosives in the environment of nasalized vowels. Nonetheless, nasalized consonants have the distributional properties of their non-nasalized counterparts, whereas nasals do not pattern in the same way as (non-nasal) stops. The task for a linguistic phonetic theory is thus to express the articulatory and temporal relationships between nasals and nasalized segments while accounting for the differences in their distributional patterns and markedness that are based on their acoustic nature. We would consider nasals to be distinguished from stops by being sonorant, giving an acoustic definition to this property. Nasals and nasalized vowels and approximants are all [+sonorant], but fricatives are obstruents and the acoustic signature of their obstruency is poorly compatible with nasality. The similarities between nasals and nasalized consonants arise from articulatory considerations, whereas the differences arise from acoustic considerations." (pp. 134-136)

Yes, maybe my statement of nasals as continuants is hasty. I am not an expert on feature geometry. However, I often see people following Chomsky & Halle in defining nasal stops as [-continuant, +sonorant] (i.e. they are stops and non-obstruents) and oral stops as [-continuant, -sonorant] (i.e. they are stops and obstruents). And I have seen nasals referred to as continuants in the pre-generative era.

L&M consider nasals to be continuants in an articulatory sense and in their discussion of a featural representation of nasals they consider them to be sonorants in an acoustic sense and stops in an articulatory sense, with the added feature of [+nasal]. It is interesting that they discuss nasals from a "traditional" sense and later when they must assign them phonological/phonetic features, they call them nasal stop sonorants, which is similar to Chomsky & Halle's representation (although C&H's featural system is rather different from what Ladefoged has proposed).

The problem with nasals is that they can be defined according to different criteria. So, an obstruent can be defined articulatorily as a stricture, while the sonorance-obstruency dimension can be defined acoustically in terms of air pressure differences. The terms are not meaningless, as you say, but rather can be used from different perspectives. L&M say that nasals must be viewed (and represented in a featural description) from both perspectives. The differences result from this rather than from different areas of linguistic research.

What the article needs to do, if it does not, is to make clear that nasals are interestingly borderline stops and their connections with non-stop sonorants, and how these terms are defined through articulation and acoustics. peace – ishwar  (speak) 18:05, 15 October 2006 (UTC)

Requested move[edit]

stop consonant to plosive consonant. Nearly all the articles on specific plosives have "plosive" in that title e.g. voiced bilabial plosive, voiceless alveolar plosive etc. For consistency, this article should similarly be at plosive consonant.

not all stops are plosives. Some are imploded. Some are clicks. Sometimes affricates are called affricated stops. So, this suggestion is not so good. peace – ishwar  (speak) 18:07, 15 October 2006 (UTC)
If not all stops are plosives, then plosive consonant should be a separate article like click consonant, not merely redirecting to this article. Topses 21:47, 15 October 2006 (UTC)
No consensus to move. —Mets501 (talk) 14:01, 21 October 2006 (UTC)


In languages where stops are only distinguished by length (e.g. Arabic, Ilwana, Icelandic), the long stops may last up to three times as long as the short stops.

Arabic and Icelandic do have phonation contrasts in stops. But is the "three times" only supposed to apply to languages without any, or all languages with geminate stops at all? We'll need to kno that to fix this. --Tropylium 12:34, 23 July 2007 (UTC)

Aspirated stops[edit]

Voiced stops have a negative voice onset time, meaning the voicing begins before the stop is released. ... Aspirated stops have a voice onset time greater than zero

This would seem to deny the possibility of voiced aspirated stops: however these do exist in Hindi and many other Indian languages. Maybe change to "voiceless aspirated stops have a voice onset time greater than zero"? Grover cleveland 06:33, 30 July 2007 (UTC)

Yeah, we've been calling those 'murmured' rather than 'aspirated'. I just pulled a redundant paragraph, so the whole thing needs to be gone over. (Here it is, as the wording's different — kwami (talk) 20:56, 31 October 2010 (UTC)):
In aspirated stops, the voice onset (the time when the vocal cords begin to vibrate) comes perceivably later than the release of the stop. The duration between the release of the stop and the voice onset is called voice onset time (VOT). Tenuis stops have a voice onset time close to zero, meaning that voicing begins when the stop is released. Voiced stops have a negative voice onset time, meaning the voicing begins before the stop is released. A stop is called "fully voiced" if it is voiced during the entire occlusion. In English, however, initial voiced plosives like [b] or [d] are only partially voiced, meaning that voicing picks up sometime during the occlusion. Aspirated stops have a voice onset time greater than zero, so that there is a period of voiceless airflow (a phonetic [h]) before the onset of the vowel.