An acoustic analysis of pharyngeal and emphatic consonants in Iraqi Arabic
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Emphatic consonants in Arabic are coronal obstruents with a secondary articulation. The exact place of the secondary constriction is debated, though these consonants are often said to be pharyngealized. The emphatic consonants contrast with plain coronal obstruents and pharyngeal fricatives. Emphatic consonants also affect adjacent and non-adjacent vowels through a process of emphasis spread, usually by F1 raising and F2 lowering. A production experiment in Iraqi Arabic examined the acoustic patterns of plain, emphatic, and pharyngeal consonants and adjacent vowels. Acoustic measurements of the first and second formants of the low vowel /a/ and the high front vowel /i/ before and after the consonant were analyzed, as well as center of gravity of the fricatives. This experiment found that F1 was higher adjacent to pharyngeal and emphatic consonants than adjacent to plain consonants. F2 was lower adjacent to emphatic consonants than adjacent to plain and pharyngeal consonants. These results suggest some similarities in the articulation of pharyngeal and emphatic consonants, but that emphatic consonants have a slightly different constriction for the secondary articulation than the constriction for pharyngeal consonants. Vowels adjacent to pharyngeal consonants also did not have the characteristic F2 lowering associated with emphatic consonants and emphasis spread. The center of gravity of pharyngeal /ħ/ was lower than the center of gravity for plain /s/ and emphatic /sˤ/, but there was no difference in the center of gravity values for the plain and emphatic fricatives. Combined with the F2 lowering of vowels adjacent to emphatic consonants, this suggests that the perception of emphatic consonants may be primarily triggered by the adjacent vowel, not the consonant itself. The results of this experiment motivate future analyses of the relationship between the effects of emphatic consonants on adjacent vowels and the perception of emphatic consonants.