Effects of obstruent voicing on vowel F0: Implications for laryngeal realism

James Kirby, Robert Ladd

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


It is sometimes argued that languages with two-way laryngeal contrasts can be classified according to whether one series is realized canonically with voicing lead or the other with voicing lag. In languages of the first type, such as French, the phonologically relevant features is argued to be [voice], while in languages of the second type, such as German, the relevant feature is argued to be [spread glottis]. A crucial assumption of this position is that the presence of certain contextually stable phonetic cues, namely voicing lead or lag, can be used to diagnose the which feature is phonologically active.

In this paper, we present data on obstruent-intrinsic F0 perturbations (CF0) in two [voice] languages, French and Italian. Voiceless obstruents in both languages are found to raise F0, while F0 following (pre)voiced obstruents patterns together with sonorants, similar to the voiceless unaspirated stops of [spread glottis] languages like German and English. The contextual stability of this cue implies that an active devoicing gesture is common to languages of both the [voice] and [spread glottis] types, and undermines the idea that a strict binary dichotomy between true voicing and aspirating languages can be reliably inferred based on properties of the surface phonetics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213–235
JournalYearbook of the Poznań Linguistic Meeting
Issue number1
Early online date30 Jul 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 30 Jul 2019


  • laryngeal realism
  • voicing
  • CF0
  • phonetic grounding
  • privativity


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