Secondary articulation

In phonetics, secondary articulation occurs when the articulation of a consonant is equivalent to the combined articulations of two or three simpler consonants, at least one of which is an approximant. The secondary articulation of such co-articulated consonants is the approximant-like articulation. It "colors" the primary articulation rather than obscuring it. Maledo (2011) defines secondary articulation as the superimposition of lesser stricture upon a primary articulation.

Types

There are several kinds of secondary articulation supported by the International Phonetic Alphabet:

It can sometimes be difficult to distinguish primary and secondary articulation. For example, the alveolo-palatal consonants [ɕ ʑ] are sometimes characterized as a distinct primary articulation and sometimes as palatalization of postalveolar fricatives, equivalent to [ʃʲ ʒʲ] or [s̠ʲ z̠ʲ].

Transcription

The most common method of transcription in the IPA is to turn the letter corresponding to the secondary articulation into a superscript written after the letter for the primary articulation. For example, the w in ⟨⟩ is written after the k. This can be misleading, as it iconically suggests that the [k] is released into a [w] sound, analogous to ⟨kˡ kⁿ⟩ ([k] with a lateral and nasal release), when actually the two articulations of [kʷ] are generally pronounced more-or-less simultaneously. Secondary articulation often has a strong effect on surrounding vowels, and may have an audible realization that precedes the primary consonant, or both precedes and follows it. For example, /akʷa/ will not generally sound simply like [akwa], but may be closer to [awkwa] or even [awka]. For this reason, the IPA symbols for labialization and palatalization were for a time placed under the primary letter (e.g. ⟨⟩ for [kʷ] and ⟨ƫ⟩ for [tʲ]), and a number of phoneticians still prefer such unambiguous usage, with ⟨⟩ and ⟨⟩ used specifically for off-glides, despite the official policy of the IPA. In the official IPA there remains only an alternative symbol for velarization/pharyngealizaton that is superposed over the primary (e.g. ⟨ɫ⟩ for dark L), but that has font support for a limited number of consonants and is inadvisable for others, where it can be illegible. A few phoneticians use superscript letters for offglides and subscript letters for simultaneous articulation (e.g. ⟨⟩ vs ⟨tⱼ⟩).

There is a longstanding tradition in the IPA that one may turn any IPA letter into a superscript, and in so doing impart its features to the base consonant. For instance, [ʃˢ] would be an articulation of [ʃ] that has qualities of [s].[1] However, the features are not necessarily imparted as secondary articulation. Superscripts are also used iconically to indicate the onset or release of a consonant, the on-glide or off-glide of a vowel, and fleeting or weak segments. Among other things, these phenomena include pre-nasalization ([ᵐb]), pre-stopping ([ᵖm, ᵗs]), affrication ([tᶴ]), pre-affrication ([ˣk]), trilled, fricative, nasal, and lateral release ([tʳ, tᶿ, dⁿ, dˡ]), rhoticization ([ɑʵ]), and diphthongs ([aᶷ]). So, while ⟨ˠ⟩ indicates velarization of non-velar consonants, it is also used for fricative release of the velar stop (⟨ɡˠ⟩). Mixed consonant-vowels may indicate a transition: [ᵇa] may be the allophone of /a/ with the transition from /b/ that identifies the consonant, while [fʸ] may be the allophone of /f/ before /y/, or the formants of /y/ anticipated in the /f/.

The 2015 edition of the Extensions to the International Phonetic Alphabet formally advocates superscript letters for the first time since 1989, specifically for the release of plosives.[2]

Unicode support of superscript IPA letters

The customary use of superscript IPA letters, advocated in IPA charts until 1989, is formalized again in the extIPA chart of 2015. However, not all IPA letters are supported by Unicode. The letters that are supported as of 2020 are shown here in black. Letters in grey are scheduled for Unicode 14 in 2021.

IPA consonants with superscript variants and code points
Bi­labial Labio­dental Dental Alveolar Post­alveolar Retro­flex Palatal Velar Uvular Pharyn­geal Glottal
Nasal m ᵐ
1D50
ɱ ᶬ
1DAC
n ⁿ
207F
ɳ ᶯ
1DAF
ɲ ᶮ
1DAE
ŋ ᵑ
1D51
ɴ ᶰ
1DB0
Plosive p ᵖ
1D56
b ᵇ
1D47
t ᵗ
1D57
d ᵈ
1D48
ʈ 𐞯
107AF
ɖ 𐞋
1078B
c ᶜ
1D9C
ɟ ᶡ
1DA1
k ᵏ
1D4F
ɡ ᶢ
1DA2
[note 1]
q 𐞥
107A5
ɢ 𐞒
10792
ʡ 𐞳
107B3
ʔ ˀ
2C0
Affricate ʦ 𐞬
107AC
ʣ 𐞇
10787
ʧ 𐞮
107AE
(ʨ 𐞫)
107AB
ʤ 𐞊
1078A
(ʥ 𐞉)
10789
ꭧ 𐞭
107AD
ꭦ 𐞈
10788
Fricative ɸ ᶲ
1DB2
β ᵝ
1D5D
f ᶠ
1DA0
v ᵛ
1D5B
θ ᶿ
1DBF
ð ᶞ
1D9E
s ˢ
2E2
z ᶻ
1DBB
ʃ ᶴ
1DB4
(ɕ ᶝ)
1D9D
ʒ ᶾ
1DBE
(ʑ ᶽ)
1DBD
ʂ ᶳ
1DB3
ʐ ᶼ
1DBC
ç ᶜ̧
[note 2]
ʝ ᶨ
1DA8
x ˣ
2E3
(ɧ 𐞗)
10797
ɣ ˠ
2E0
χ ᵡ
1D61
ʁ ʶ
2B6
ħ 𐞕
10795

(ʩ 𐞐)
10790
ʕ ˤ, ˁ
2E4, 2C1
[note 3]
h ʰ
2B0
ɦ ʱ
2B1
Approximant ʋ ᶹ
1DB9
ɹ ʴ
2B4
ɻ ʵ
2B5
j ʲ
2B2
(ɥ ᶣ)
1DA3
 
 
(ʍ ꭩ)
AB69
ɰ ᶭ
1DAD
(w ʷ)
2B7
Tap/flap ⱱ 𐞰
107B0
ɾ 𐞩
107A9
ɽ 𐞨
107A8
Trill ʙ 𐞄
10784
r ʳ
2B3
ʀ 𐞪
107AA
ʜ 𐞖
10796
[note 4]
ʢ 𐞴
107B4
Lateral fricative ɬ 𐞛
1079B

(ʪ 𐞙)
10799
ɮ 𐞞
1079E

(ʫ 𐞚)
1079A
ꞎ 𐞝
1079D
𝼅 𐞟
1079F
𝼆 𐞡
107A1
𝼄 𐞜
1079C
Lateral approximant l ˡ
2E1
(ɫ ꭞ)
AB5E
[note 5]
ɭ ᶩ
1DA9
ʎ 𐞠
107A0
ʟ ᶫ
1DAB
Lateral tap/flap ɺ 𐞦
107A6
𝼈 𐞧
107A7
Ejective Pʼ ᴾ̕
315 [note 6]
Implosive ƥ ɓ 𐞅
10785
ƭ ɗ 𐞌
1078C
𝼉 ᶑ 𐞍
1078D
ƈ ʄ 𐞘
10798
ƙ ɠ 𐞓
10793
ʠ ʛ 𐞔
10794
Click release ʘ 𐞵
107B5
ǀ 𐞶
107B6
ǃ ꜝ
A71D
𝼊 𐞹
107B9
ǂ 𐞸
107B8
Lateral click
release
ǁ 𐞷
107B7
Percussive ʬ ⁻ ʭ ⁻ ¡ ꜞ
A71E

As of Unicode 13, there are no superscript implosive, click or ExtIPA letters, with the accidental exceptions of ⟨ꜝ, ꜞ⟩.[note 7] Nor are there superscript length marks, though these may be found in print (for example, long aspiration may be transcribed as superscript ⟨h⟩ followed by superscript ⟨ː⟩). The spacing diacritic for ejective consonants, U+2BC, works well enough with superscript letters despite not being superscript itself: ⟨ᵖʼ ᵗʼ ᶜʼ ᵏˣʼ⟩. If a distinction needs to be made, the combining apostrophe U+315 may be used: ⟨ᵖ̕ ᵗ̕ ᶜ̕ ᵏˣ̕⟩.[note 6]

Superscript letters can be modified by IPA and extIPA combining diacritics, just as full letters are. For example, a superscript dental nasal is ⟨ⁿ̪d̪⟩, a voiceless velar nasal ⟨ᵑ̊ǂ⟩, and a prenasalized labial-velar plosive ⟨ᵑ͡ᵐɡ͡b⟩. In a properly designed font, the diacritic will align with the superscript letter. (Spacing diacritics, however, as in ⟨⟩, cannot be secondarily superscripted in plain text: ⟨ᵗʲ⟩.)[note 8]

IPA vowels with superscript variants and code points
Front Central Back
Close i ⁱ
2071
y ʸ
2B8
ɨ ᶤ
1DA4
ʉ ᶶ
1DB6
ɯ ᵚ
1D5A
u ᵘ
1D58
Near-close ɪ ᶦ
1DA6
ʏ 𐞲
107B2
ᵻ ᶧ
1DA7
ᵿ ⁻ ʊ ᶷ
1DB7
Close-mid e ᵉ
1D49
ø 𐞢
107A2
ɘ 𐞎
1078E
ɵ ᶱ
1DB1
ɤ 𐞑
10791
o ᵒ
1D52
Mid ə ᵊ
1D4A
Open-mid ɛ ᵋ
1D4B
œ ꟹ
A7F9
ɜ ᶟ
1D9F
[note 9]
ɞ 𐞏
1078F
ʌ ᶺ
1DBA
ɔ ᵓ
1D53
Near-open æ 𐞃
10783

[note 10]
ɶ 𐞣
107A3
ɐ ᵄ
1D44
ɑ ᵅ
1D45
ɒ ᶛ
1D9B
Open
and length
a ᵃ
1D43
ː 𐞁
10781
ˑ 𐞂
10782

The precomposed rhotic vowels ⟨ɚ ɝ⟩ are not supported, but the rhotic diacritic works well on superscript vowels despite not being superscripted itself: ⟨ᵊ˞ ᵌ˞⟩ (also ⟨ᵋ˞ ᶦ˞ ᵓ˞ ᵅ˞⟩). Other combining diacritics work as normal, though they may be a bit oversized compared to the vowels they modify, which can be an aid to legibility: ⟨ᵓ̃⟩.

The old near-close vowel letters ⟨ɩ⟩ and ⟨ɷ⟩ are supported at U+1DA5 ⟨and U+107A4 ⟨𐞤.

See also

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