Manusya, Journal of Humanities

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The Sgaw Karen dialect of Ban Pa La-u, Amphoe Hua Hin, Thailand, has four nasals: /m/, /n/, /ɲ/, and /ŋ/, that appear in syllable-initial position. Review of the relevant literature indicates that initial /ɲ/ has been less studied acoustically due to the lack of palatal nasals in the consonant systems of most languages. Thus, this Sgaw Karen dialect is suitable for investigating the place of articulation of nasals. The acoustic characteristics examined include the duration, intensity, and frequencies of the formants (resonances) of the nasal murmurs as well as the frequencies of the formant transitions into the following vowels /a/ and /ɔ/. The significance of each acoustic characteristic as a place cue has been statistically tested with ANOVA and Tukey's HSD. The results confirm the previous findings (Liberman, Delattre, Cooper and Gerstman 1954, Malecot 1956, Recasens 1983, Harding and Meyer, 2003) that transitions provide better cues for differentiating place of articulation for nasals. Furthermore, this study found that among the formant frequencies in a formant transition, the F2 transition provides the most effective cue to identifying the places of nasal articulation, i.e. /ɲ/ has the highest F2 frequency value at the nasal-vowel juncture, followed by /n/, /ŋ/, and /m/, respectively. The relational pattern between F2-F3 transitional directions can also aid in differentiating nasal articulation places; however, the pattern of transitional direction depends on vocalic context. The F2-F3 transitional patterns among the places of articulation clearly differ in the /ɔ/ context. In the case of a following /a/, the F2-F3 transitional patterns for /n/ and /ŋ/ are very similar and do not act as a place cue. Although the second nasal formant (NF2) evinces consistent relational patterns, differences among /m/, /n/, and /ɲ/ are not statistically significant, implying their similarity. Likewise, neither intensity nor duration of nasal murmurs can be used as cues to differentiate place of articulation for nasals.

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