Is there a way to display how strongly a consonant is pronounced in IPA?

If you're new to these arts, this is the place to ask "stupid" questions and get directions!
Post Reply
User avatar
rainbowcult
rupestrian
rupestrian
Posts: 23
Joined: 31 Aug 2020 02:22

Is there a way to display how strongly a consonant is pronounced in IPA?

Post by rainbowcult »

I'm going to be the most recent 3 posts in beginners corner, lucky me, but in my most recent conlang the final consonant is pronounced extremely lightly unless there's a vowel in front of it, almost like French but with at least something there. How would I use IPA to express that?
♂♥♂♀
User avatar
Pabappa
sinic
sinic
Posts: 439
Joined: 18 Nov 2017 02:41
Contact:

Re: Is there a way to display how strongly a consonant is pronounced in IPA?

Post by Pabappa »

You can use fortis vs lenis, but I'd hesitate on that because you're saying you don't want a distinction between fortis and lenis in the phonology, .... you're just saying it's allophonic at the end of a word. This would mean that the listeners would have to make greater effort to distinguish speech sounds at the end of a word than they do elsewhere.

If you want a true strong vs weak contrast, you can use the disordered speech symbols, but I suspect the reason there's no proper IPA symbol for what you're doing is that natural languages typically don't reduce sounds that way. Rather than, say, distinguishing a weakly vs strongly articulated /p t k/ at the end of a word, it's more likely the language would merge them all to a glottal stop, and then perhaps at a later stage delete them altogether.
I'll take the theses, and you can have the thoses.
User avatar
jimydog000
sinic
sinic
Posts: 330
Joined: 19 Mar 2016 04:14
Location: Australian Country

Re: Is there a way to display how strongly a consonant is pronounced in IPA?

Post by jimydog000 »

There are unreleased consonants.
Salmoneus
MVP
MVP
Posts: 2067
Joined: 19 Sep 2011 19:37

Re: Is there a way to display how strongly a consonant is pronounced in IPA?

Post by Salmoneus »

Perhaps you could explain what you mean by "lightly"?


EDIT: to clarify, there's a range of things that someone may hear as 'lightness', which might be indicated differently.

Some that I can think of include:

- unreleased stops; these lack the distinctive release sound
- deaspirated stops; these lack specifically the harsh puff of aspiration, and in English are associated with lack of stress, so might be 'light'
- aspirated stops; the puff of aspiration makes them sound slightly more fricative, and indeed they're more likely to turn into fricatives, so again, could be seen as 'light'
- voiced stops; these are often heard as 'soft', which might be 'light'
- devoiced stops; these are actually often quieter than voiced stops because the hum of the larynx is missing
- preaspirated stops; these cut the voicing off before it gets to the stop itself, creating in effect a preceding vowel that becomes whispered and reducing the contrast of the stop - so, perhaps a 'light' sound
- breathy stops: the name 'breathy' suggests a certain lightness, doesn't it?
- affricated stops: a stop that is only briefly a stop before becoming a fricative is in a sense 'lighter' than a full stop, I guess
- glottalised stops: cut off both voicing and the flow of air entirely before the stop, making the stop itself quieter (and more likely to be deleted over time), so these could certainly be seen as 'lighter' - although they could also be seen as 'heavier', and often arise through reinforcement.

These are for stops (and I'm sure there are other options too); i'm a bit more confused what 'lightness' could be if it applies to any and all consonants - what's a 'light' /j/?


If you don't really mind about the details, you could use the 'lenis' markers - literally 'soft', but you could maybe use them for 'light' sounds - although really that's just delaying the question (it's not clear what, if anything, 'lenis' actually means cross-linguistically, other than "there are two sets of sounds and we can't pin down the difference, so we'll just say 'fortis' and 'lenis' for now"...


And as Papabba says, since this is allophonic, you don't really need to mark it for most purposes anyway.
Last edited by Salmoneus on 04 Oct 2020 22:21, edited 1 time in total.
User avatar
rainbowcult
rupestrian
rupestrian
Posts: 23
Joined: 31 Aug 2020 02:22

Re: Is there a way to display how strongly a consonant is pronounced in IPA?

Post by rainbowcult »

Salmoneus wrote: 04 Oct 2020 22:04 Perhaps you could explain what you mean by "lightly"?
Well I'm not the best at explaining things, but if you were to say it quieter, I guess? A consonant that is barely able to be heard but still there.
♂♥♂♀
Salmoneus
MVP
MVP
Posts: 2067
Joined: 19 Sep 2011 19:37

Re: Is there a way to display how strongly a consonant is pronounced in IPA?

Post by Salmoneus »

rainbowcult wrote: 04 Oct 2020 22:11
Salmoneus wrote: 04 Oct 2020 22:04 Perhaps you could explain what you mean by "lightly"?
Well I'm not the best at explaining things, but if you were to say it quieter, I guess? A consonant that is barely able to be heard but still there.
I wonder whether you may be mistaken in your analysis of what you're hearing?

To the best of my knowledge, no language uses volume meaningfully (other than as one indicator of stress or emphasis).

In particular, and issue here is that many consonants - stops - are in a very real sense already 'not there'. A stop, like /t/, /k/ etc, is literally a silent gap in the airflow - they're only recognisable through small variations in the sound generated as the airflow is closed, and sometimes, when applicable, when it is opened again. In a very real sense, you cannot say /k/ more loudly or more quietly - its really only the vowels (or other non-stops) on either side that have volume, though for phonemic purposes some characteristics of the vowels are counted as part of the phoneme.

Is this 'lightness' or 'quietness' you're interested in a possible trait of ALL consonants, or just stops? That is, does it apply to /s/, /n/, /w/, etc, or just to /t/, /k/, /p/?

Conversely, you can make a fricative like /s/ louder quite easily, but you generally do this by a) increasing the rate at which you expel air, and b) pressing the fricative 'closer', making the gap for the air to pass through smaller. But you can't do either of those with a stop, which aleady has zero air going through and 100% closure.


To get more concrete, I'm not sure what you mean by your analogy to French. You say "almost like French but with at least something there" - but of course French consonants already have 'something there' (even if it's only on the surrounding vowels), or else they wouldn't be consonants. So I'm not sure exactly what you mean.

The fact you say 'extremely lightly unless there's a vowel in front of it' (by 'in front' I presume you mean immediately following in time, rather than in front in a transcription, i.e. immediately preceding it in time) does perhaps suggest you're thinking of an unreleased stop, as these are often word-final. Although you may also be thinking about something to do with aspiration?

To pronounce an unreleased stop, I think it's helpful to start with a geminate. Say "bat", and listen to the /t/ - this will probably be a released /t/. Now say a common compound word like "bat-tango". Not "bat tango", with the two words as separate, but hyphenated, as "bat-tango". The /t/ closes at the end of 'bat', and then opens at the beginning of 'tango', as it were. You can hold that sound (or, more accurately, that silence) as long as you want, to listen more carefully to each half of the sound - the closure and the release; the sound of the 't' of 'bat' in 'bat-tango' will probably be an unreleased stop. Is this anything like you're thinking of?


However, non-release only really applies to stops - you can't have an unreleased /s/, for instance. And while you can have aspirated and unaspirated /s/, it's not an important distinction in many languages, including European ones, so I'm not sure that's what you're thinking of.
User avatar
rainbowcult
rupestrian
rupestrian
Posts: 23
Joined: 31 Aug 2020 02:22

Re: Is there a way to display how strongly a consonant is pronounced in IPA?

Post by rainbowcult »

Salmoneus wrote: 05 Oct 2020 01:51
rainbowcult wrote: 04 Oct 2020 22:11
Salmoneus wrote: 04 Oct 2020 22:04 Perhaps you could explain what you mean by "lightly"?
Well I'm not the best at explaining things, but if you were to say it quieter, I guess? A consonant that is barely able to be heard but still there.
I wonder whether you may be mistaken in your analysis of what you're hearing?

To the best of my knowledge, no language uses volume meaningfully (other than as one indicator of stress or emphasis).

In particular, and issue here is that many consonants - stops - are in a very real sense already 'not there'. A stop, like /t/, /k/ etc, is literally a silent gap in the airflow - they're only recognisable through small variations in the sound generated as the airflow is closed, and sometimes, when applicable, when it is opened again. In a very real sense, you cannot say /k/ more loudly or more quietly - its really only the vowels (or other non-stops) on either side that have volume, though for phonemic purposes some characteristics of the vowels are counted as part of the phoneme.

Is this 'lightness' or 'quietness' you're interested in a possible trait of ALL consonants, or just stops? That is, does it apply to /s/, /n/, /w/, etc, or just to /t/, /k/, /p/?

Conversely, you can make a fricative like /s/ louder quite easily, but you generally do this by a) increasing the rate at which you expel air, and b) pressing the fricative 'closer', making the gap for the air to pass through smaller. But you can't do either of those with a stop, which aleady has zero air going through and 100% closure.


To get more concrete, I'm not sure what you mean by your analogy to French. You say "almost like French but with at least something there" - but of course French consonants already have 'something there' (even if it's only on the surrounding vowels), or else they wouldn't be consonants. So I'm not sure exactly what you mean.

The fact you say 'extremely lightly unless there's a vowel in front of it' (by 'in front' I presume you mean immediately following in time, rather than in front in a transcription, i.e. immediately preceding it in time) does perhaps suggest you're thinking of an unreleased stop, as these are often word-final. Although you may also be thinking about something to do with aspiration?

To pronounce an unreleased stop, I think it's helpful to start with a geminate. Say "bat", and listen to the /t/ - this will probably be a released /t/. Now say a common compound word like "bat-tango". Not "bat tango", with the two words as separate, but hyphenated, as "bat-tango". The /t/ closes at the end of 'bat', and then opens at the beginning of 'tango', as it were. You can hold that sound (or, more accurately, that silence) as long as you want, to listen more carefully to each half of the sound - the closure and the release; the sound of the 't' of 'bat' in 'bat-tango' will probably be an unreleased stop. Is this anything like you're thinking of?


However, non-release only really applies to stops - you can't have an unreleased /s/, for instance. And while you can have aspirated and unaspirated /s/, it's not an important distinction in many languages, including European ones, so I'm not sure that's what you're thinking of.
An example of this would be the French word "comprendre," meaning understand. The IPA for this (as retrieved from a website, I'm not sure how accurate it is) is "kɔ̃pʁɑ̃dʁ," however when I listened to an audio of the IPA reading the final ʁ was very light. I am uncertain on how to attach a file, so I hosted it here.
♂♥♂♀
User avatar
Aevas
admin
admin
Posts: 1427
Joined: 11 May 2010 05:46
Location: ꜱᴇ

Re: Is there a way to display how strongly a consonant is pronounced in IPA?

Post by Aevas »

rainbowcult wrote: 05 Oct 2020 18:39An example of this would be the French word "comprendre," meaning understand. The IPA for this (as retrieved from a website, I'm not sure how accurate it is) is "kɔ̃pʁɑ̃dʁ," however when I listened to an audio of the IPA reading the final ʁ was very light. I am uncertain on how to attach a file, so I hosted it here.
I hear the first /r/ as a voiceless fricative [χ] and the second /r/ as a voiced approximant [ʁ̞].

The first one is voiceless due to assimilation with the preceding /p/, while the second one remains voiced due to /d/.

The latter likely sounds "lighter" due to it a) being voiced rather than voiceless (cf. Salmoneus' point above), b) being an approximant and not a fricative (fricatives are pronounced with more intensity), and c) due to it being further away from the stressed vowel (which would attract more prominence).
User avatar
rainbowcult
rupestrian
rupestrian
Posts: 23
Joined: 31 Aug 2020 02:22

Re: Is there a way to display how strongly a consonant is pronounced in IPA?

Post by rainbowcult »

Aevas wrote: 05 Oct 2020 19:59
rainbowcult wrote: 05 Oct 2020 18:39An example of this would be the French word "comprendre," meaning understand. The IPA for this (as retrieved from a website, I'm not sure how accurate it is) is "kɔ̃pʁɑ̃dʁ," however when I listened to an audio of the IPA reading the final ʁ was very light. I am uncertain on how to attach a file, so I hosted it here.
I hear the first /r/ as a voiceless fricative [χ] and the second /r/ as a voiced approximant [ʁ̞].

The first one is voiceless due to assimilation with the preceding /p/, while the second one remains voiced due to /d/.

The latter likely sounds "lighter" due to it a) being voiced rather than voiceless (cf. Salmoneus' point above), b) being an approximant and not a fricative (fricatives are pronounced with more intensity), and c) due to it being further away from the stressed vowel (which would attract more prominence).
Thank you! I've found phonology to be one of the most difficult parts of conlanging to be honest.
♂♥♂♀
Post Reply