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Phonetic and Phonological Investigation of the Fifth Liquid in Malayalam: Evidence for Rhotic Characteristics

Lookup NU author(s): Reenu Punnoose, Professor Ghada Khattab


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As part of its liquid inventory, Malayalam has two rhotics, two laterals and a fifth liquid which has been called an ‘r-sound’ by some researchers and a lateral by others. This paper presents findings on the phonetic and phonological nature of the fifth liquid in Malayalam, which has never been the subject of experimental research before. Results show that this sound has the phonetic characteristics of a clear post-alveolar central approximant, therefore suggesting that Malayalam has a third rhotic. Interestingly, however, its phonological behaviour displays patterns that are typical of other retroflex rather than of alveolar sounds in the language. An extrinsic phonetic interpretation of phonology is suggested to account for the results.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Punnoose R, Khattab G

Editor(s): Lee, W.S., Zee, E.

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: 17th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences

Year of Conference: 2011

Pages: 1646-1649


Sponsor(s): Department of Chinese, Translation and Linguistics, City University of Hong Kong