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Labialization of qu

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Labialization of qu

Postby quendidil » Sun Sep 14, 2008 8:15 am

I know the common consensus is that qu is "labialized" to a sound like English "Queen" but IMO, that isn't really labialization is it? If I round my lips while pronouncing /k/ the sound is rather different.

Can anyone comment on the validity of this pronunciation?
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Postby Twpsyn » Sun Sep 14, 2008 3:33 pm

You could, I suppose, transcribe 'queen' as /kÊ·i:n/ (labialized k) or /kwi:n/ (k + w). I am unsure what difference you find between the two; they are almost indistinguishable, if, indeed, not identical.
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Postby quendidil » Sun Sep 14, 2008 4:56 pm

If I go by the definiton that labialization is a rounding of the lips, it sounds rather different. Try rounding your lips like a pufferfish and sound /k/.

/kwi:n/ as I understand it features the semivowel /w/ instead of a labialization.
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Postby Twpsyn » Sun Sep 14, 2008 5:11 pm

You may be vastly exaggerating the mouth-shape (if your lips are like a pufferfish (!)), or something. In my experience, as I said, the two are extremely similar (after all, all it is is the difference of a fraction of a second between when you add the lip rounding). Another possibility is the difference between /w/, which has velar as well as labial articulation, and pure labialization; but since the distinction is not phonemic in English I doubt that is what you are hearing. It would be helpful if you could make a sound recording of your version of kÊ·; otherwise, there isn't much more I can say on the subject.
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Postby quendidil » Sun Sep 14, 2008 5:32 pm

Unfortunately, I don't have access to a microphone and won't for a few weeks. Perhaps a pufferfish was too much of an exaggeration; more like the shape of your lips as you are kissing.

I found a link which I think is talking about what I'm trying to say. Look under "Simultaneous Labialisation". When I try saying "qui" like this, the vowel ends up close to /y/, due to coarticulation.

I started wondering about this topic some time ago actually; since if Latin "qu" was like Italian "qu" /kw/ I find it hard to understand how it could have been palatalized under the same process as "c" /k/ to the fricative values in most modern Romance languages. Of course, I could have completely misunderstood the sound change, but I think a simultaneously labialised "qu" would be more obviously palatalized.
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Postby quendidil » Sun Sep 14, 2008 6:50 pm

I found another link from a Yahoo group, talking about Quenya.

The problem with the term "labialized velar" is that it is used
rather vaguely to cover three rather different things:

a) Velars articulated with rounded lips: place the lips as if
for whistling, then pronounce the velar stop.

b) Actual labialized velars: bring the centers of the lips
together almost as if to articulate an _m_, but with a small
opening, then articulate the velar stop.

c) Co-articulated labial-velar stops: first close the lips as if
to articulate _p_ or _b_, then while maintaining this closure place
the tongue in the position for articulating _k_ or_g_, then release
both closures simultaneously while emitting air.

In my experience only (c) is actually difficult to learn.

Older phoneticians, as well as many modern phonologists and
certainly Indo-European philologists past and present were
not well aware of the distinction between (a) and (b) and
in general not aware of (c) at all, in spite of the fact
that the developments in Greek and Celtic imply that the
Proto-Indo-European "labiovelars" were of type (c). The
same is alas no doubt true of Tolkien as well.

P.S. In Latin and Common Germanic the PIE "labiovelars"
had probably developed into clusters with [w]. It should
be noted that a _phonetic_ cluster can still function
_phonemically_ as a unit.


I understand the "labialized k" in latin to refer to type B under this scheme.
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Postby quendidil » Fri Sep 19, 2008 2:50 pm

Has no one else any opinion on this? Is the "qu" of Latin to be pronounced //kÊ·/ or /kw/?
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Postby Alatius » Fri Sep 19, 2008 3:18 pm

Everything I have read supports that <qu> is indeed a labialized stop (be it of type a or b or even c; I dare not say). The advice "qu as in 'queen'" is only intended as a rough approximation, and does not touch on the finer distinctions between [kw] and [kÊ·].

Does it matter? Well, maybe not much, but bear in mind that <qu> functions as a short consonant in poetry, which means that, e.g. "quoque" should be possible to pronounce just as fast as, e.g., "tibi". A true labialized pronunciation facilitates this, I reckon.
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Postby Lucus Eques » Sun Oct 12, 2008 4:02 pm

Yes, there is a difference between /kw/ and /kÊ·/. The 'qu' of Latin is identical to that of English "quest," "quick," "queen," and many others. This is the phoneme /kÊ·/.

You find that by it's description it is hard to pronounce. Try again, like this: round the lips in the shape of Latin "u." Then you make a 'k'-sound. THEN you add a vowel! Like "a" : qua. The effect is in the changing of the 'u'-shape to a vowel shape. Of course, 'quu' is practically indistinguishable from 'cu.'

However, /kw/ is two phonemes in sequence. Russian has neither /w/ nor /kÊ·/, so when a Russian adult learns English, and successfully masters the /w/, he will usually only be able to approximate /kÊ·/ with /kw/. It doesn't sound as fluid as /kÊ·/.
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