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Help with voiced aspirated stops - UniLang

Help with voiced aspirated stops

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Lazar Taxon
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Help with voiced aspirated stops

Postby Lazar Taxon » 2013-02-17, 16:38

This is the one aspect of Hindi phonology that has always stymied me: how do I differentiate /bʱ/, /dʱ/, /dʒʱ/, /ɖʱ/ and /ɡʱ/ from their unaspirated counterparts? In practical terms I just can't figure it out, and listening to recordings hasn't helped. So my question is, from the perspective of someone who can't make these sounds, what's the best way of approximating them? If, for example, I'm trying to pronounce "dharma", should I:

a) Say [ˈdɣəɾmə], [ˈdʁəɾmə] or [ˈdʕəɾmə] with some kind of a guttural fricative? I noticed that the Russians transcribe it as "дхарма".

b) Say [dǝˈhəɾmə] with a sort of very short schwa? Perhaps this may best approximate the breathiness that I hear on recordings, but it seems cumbersome to insert all these extra vowels.

c) Just give up and pronounce it as [ˈdəɾmə]? Or [ˈtʰəɾmə]? Is it a big deal not to maintain the voiced aspirated consonants as a distinct set?
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Re: Help with voiced aspirated stops

Postby linguoboy » 2013-02-17, 17:45

I don't like any of those options. Remember that you're not dealing here with a stop + approximant sequence but with a fundamentally different kind of phonation on the consonant.

In Punjabi, this phonation has morphed into low tone with creaky voice on the following vowel, and that's what I use in Hindi as well. I know it's not normative, but I figure there are enough people out there speaking Hindi-Urdu with Punjabi accents that most speakers will have no trouble understanding me.
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Re: Help with voiced aspirated stops

Postby mōdgethanc » 2013-04-13, 23:35

Lazar Taxon wrote:This is the one aspect of Hindi phonology that has always stymied me: how do I differentiate /bʱ/, /dʱ/, /dʒʱ/, /ɖʱ/ and /ɡʱ/ from their unaspirated counterparts? In practical terms I just can't figure it out, and listening to recordings hasn't helped. So my question is, from the perspective of someone who can't make these sounds, what's the best way of approximating them? If, for example, I'm trying to pronounce "dharma", should I:

a) Say [ˈdɣəɾmə], [ˈdʁəɾmə] or [ˈdʕəɾmə] with some kind of a guttural fricative? I noticed that the Russians transcribe it as "дхарма".
I don't get it. Why wouldn't you pronounce them as clusters with [ɦ]? It's not a hard sound to make; it even exists in English. That's exactly how I learned to pronounced these consonants, in fact: start with [bɦ], [dɦ], etc. and it won't be long before you can make them. If you can make a [ʕ], by the way, this should be a piece of cake compared to that. (And don't use any of those fricatives; it sounds awful. Just use regular voiced stops until you get the hang of it.)

I highly doubt any Russian actually says [ˈdxarmə], by the way. It's probably just orthographic like the <h> is in English.
b) Say [dǝˈhəɾmə] with a sort of very short schwa? Perhaps this may best approximate the breathiness that I hear on recordings, but it seems cumbersome to insert all these extra vowels.
Hindi actually has a rule where schwas are deleted in certain places, so it would sound weird. Don't do this.
c) Just give up and pronounce it as [ˈdəɾmə]? Or [ˈtʰəɾmə]? Is it a big deal not to maintain the voiced aspirated consonants as a distinct set?
Yes. Imagine English without voiced fricatives (a Dutch accent might sound like this). It would be understandable, maybe, but it would sound awfully funny.

Another thing that's a big deal: the sounds you've written as alveolars have to be dental in Hindi. Otherwise, native speakers will hear them as retroflex, which is probably their equivalent of the goofy stereotypical Indian accent in English where every alveolar stop is retroflex.

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Re: Help with voiced aspirated stops

Postby Lazar Taxon » 2013-12-09, 8:15

Reviving this thread because hey, why not. First of all:

mōdgethanc wrote:Another thing that's a big deal: the sounds you've written as alveolars have to be dental in Hindi.
I didn't write them as alveolars, I wrote them as [t] and [d], which are undefined for alveolar/dental contrast in the official IPA. I know that those are dental in Hindi, as they are in most languages. Now:

Why wouldn't you pronounce them as clusters with [ɦ]? It's not a hard sound to make; it even exists in English.
The reason why I don't pronounce them as clusters with [ɦ] is that I've never found a clear explanation of what [ɦ] is. From Wikipedia:

"The breathy-voiced glottal transition, commonly called a voiced glottal fricative, is a type of sound used in some spoken languages which patterns like a fricative or approximant consonant phonologically, but often lacks the usual phonetic characteristics of a consonant... In many languages, [ɦ] has no place or manner of articulation."

That's remarkably unhelpful. The only meaningful thing I can glean from their article is that the concept of [ɦ] is associated with breathy-voiced phonation, something which I'm not especially good at. And if that's the case, then it shouldn't be transcribed as a consonant and can't be considered to form a cluster with other consonants, so I don't understand what you're saying I should do.

If you can make a [ʕ], by the way, this should be a piece of cake compared to that.
Not at all. To make [ʕ], I constrict my pharynx and blow out, and I have a fricative. Easy. To make [ɦ], I... open my glottis for [h] and blow out with voicing? That's a vowel.

When you say that [ɦ] exists in English, you mean as an /h/ between vowels, like in "behave"? I've never been able to understand how this contrasts with [h], because to me it doesn't sound different from the [h] I use word-initially. Example. When I try to use the breathy sound that the guy uses in the Wikipedia recording, it doesn't sound right at all. I've made some attempts to produce a voiced or breathy sort of glottal constriction followed by a vowel, but when I place a [b] or a [d] before this, the sound just disappears:

dharma
Bhārat

As I indicated above, the only way I can force any contrast to come out of my mouth is to haphazardly modify the place or manner of articulation of the supposed [ɦ]:

dharma, Bhārat

As in this thread, every time I ask anyone about this, they always tell me that any possible workaround sounds terrible. So the only solution is to pronounce it like Punjabi instead, as linguoboy suggests?

This is so frustrating to me because I've posted questions about it on every online venue I can think of, and I've never received a satisfactory answer on how I can articulate the elusive [ɦ]. In the past I've approached several languages whose phonologies I find challenging, but there's never been a case where I haven't been able to understand what a sound is, or haven't been able to produce it with effort. I'm being honest when I say this Hindi aspiration thing is a chimera for me, an unattainable sound which seems to evade all attempts at description or production. And the reason why I'm reviving this thread is that I really want to be able to pronounce it. So, anyone, please help.
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Re: Help with voiced aspirated stops

Postby vijayjohn » 2013-12-09, 19:14

Well, I've never really gotten the hang of the difference between [h] and [ɦ], either, but I feel pretty comfortable with Hindi/Urdu voiced aspirated stops. So my first suggestion is: don't worry about that difference (at least for the purpose of producing these stops). Just start with a voiced stop followed by /h/, making sure that the stop is voiced (otherwise you'll just get a voiceless aspirate), and then
mōdgethanc wrote:it won't be long before you can make them.

:)

Lazar Taxon wrote:...If, for example, I'm trying to pronounce "dharma", should I...[s]ay [dǝˈhəɾmə] with a sort of very short schwa? Perhaps this may best approximate the breathiness that I hear on recordings, but it seems cumbersome to insert all these extra vowels.
Hindi actually has a rule where schwas are deleted in certain places, so it would sound weird. Don't do this.

I agree with this, but it can be a useful starting point. Basically, start out saying [d̪ǝˈha] and repeat it over and over, saying it faster and faster, and eventually you'll end up saying [d̪ʱa]. I'm pretty sure that's what I did.

c) Just give up and pronounce it as [ˈdəɾmə]? Or [ˈtʰəɾmə]? Is it a big deal not to maintain the voiced aspirated consonants as a distinct set?
Yes. Imagine English without voiced fricatives (a Dutch accent might sound like this). It would be understandable, maybe, but it would sound awfully funny.

I agree that it's best to at least try to distinguish voiced aspirates from plain voiced stops in Indo-Aryan languages; otherwise, native speakers will get confused or at least feel compelled to correct you.

However, if you'll allow me to digress for one paragraph: English doesn't really have phonemic voicing; it just fakes it. A "voiced" English stop has about the same VOT as a (plain) "voiceless" stop in, say, Russian, and the difference between bit and bid does not lie in the VOT of the final stop but rather in the length of the vowel (much longer in bid). It's even been argued that there is really no such thing as a voiced fricative because it's really difficult to maintain voicing throughout the duration of a fricative, and the production of such fricatives is really some sort of coarticulatory effect (I'm forgetting the exact argument here, but all of these are definitely views shared by like all phoneticians at the University of Texas, and we were actually able to observe the evidence for at least the first two of these claims ourselves).

Similarly (if this makes you feel any better!), I'm skeptical as to whether native speakers of Hindi/Urdu are necessarily successful in distinguishing between plain voiced stops and aspirated/breathy voiced stops. My sister-in-law's parents are both from towns in Uttar Pradesh that are very close to Delhi, and at my brother's engagement, my sister-in-law's mom told a joke about some hapless White guy who was getting married to a Hindi-speaking girl. Her parents asked his parents whether they should have a [ˈgoɽi] at the wedding, and the White guy's parents were like, "Uh, sure," clearly not knowing what they were agreeing to. I swear they said [ˈgoɽi].

Then my sister-in-law's mom asked my mom whether she knew what a [ˈgoɽi] was, and my mom said, "Yeah." And I was like..."You do? What is it?" :lol: And she said it meant a horse. (Traditionally, at least among some communities in North India, the groom would ride to the wedding venue on horseback). Then I realized that they meant [ˈoɽi] 'mare'. I've heard voiced aspirated stops from Hindi-speakers before, but this definitely didn't sound like one of those, and in fact, I'm not sure whether these two particular speakers can actually produce one (even though they're native speakers), although their ears are very sensitive to the contrast. (Maybe it's some kind of Punjabi substrate influence from the general area around Delhi or something like that, idk).

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Re: Help with voiced aspirated stops

Postby tgemberl » 2015-01-20, 16:35

I think your question shows the limitations of classroom instruction. If you ever spend time with people who use voiced aspirates, you'll learn how to make them. It's possible no one will be able to tell you how to make them.

The person who said it was a snap to make them could have a special gift for intuiting such things, or he or she may just not realize she's been blessed with the opportunity to interact with native speakers. She may forget that she never learned it in a classroom or from reading a book. Once you know how to do something, you often imagine it's easy to do.

At any rate, don't feel bad that you have failed to figure it out so far.


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