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DENASALIZATION

Definition:

Replacing nasal sounds with homorganic (same place) stops.

Comment:

Denasalization is a special case of stopping. Stopping involves replacing continuant consonants with stop consonants. In the case of denasalization, the continuant consonants that are stopped are the nasals /m n ŋ/. They are substituted by a stop consonant produced at the same place of articulation.

Examples:

me /mi/ → /bi/                   (syllable-initial denasalization)

bang /bæŋ/ → /bæn/       (syllable-final denasalization)

 

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Nasal → homorganic stop

As discussed in the previous section, denasalization is simply the stopping of nasals. In fact, this process can be adequately described as stopping of the continuant nasal sounds. We have seen that stopping of fricatives and affricates is the most common occurrence of stopping. Perhaps for this reason, nasals are sometimes selected as a special case of stopping and given the separate name of denasalization. We present a description of it here for the sake of completeness.

Table 9 summarizes the distribution of nasals and stops.

Table 9. Distribution of nasals and stops

Table 9. Distribution of nasals and stops.

Denasalization occurs when a nasal is substituted by a homorganic stop. Consider the following example.

 

me

/mi/

/bi/

 

Here, the bilabial nasal /m/ is substituted by the bilabial plosive /b/. Recall that the substituting /b/ consonant is said to be homorganic because it has the same place of articulation as the /m/ consonant for which it is substituting, i.e. they are both bilabial consonants. The nasal has, therefore, been substituted by a homorganic stop.

In addition, the voicing of the substituting consonant also reflects the voicing of the consonant for which it is substituting, i.e. both the target nasal /m/ and the substituting stop /b/ are voiced. As all nasals are voiced, we would, therefore, expect any substituting stop to be similarly voiced. We see from Table 9, therefore, that /m/ is typically substituted by homorganic /b/, /n/ by /d/ and /ŋ/ by /g/. Finally, as it is the nasal manner of articulation that is altered, this explains why this process is referred to as denasalization. Examples of syllable-initial denasalization include the following. [NB: the velar nasal /ŋ/ does not appear in syllable-initial position in British English and so there are no examples of denasalization of this consonant in syllable-initial position.]

 

map

/mæp/

/bæp/

no

/nəʊ/

/dəʊ/

 

The following are examples of syllable-final denasalization.

 

come

/kʌm/

/kʌb/

bun

/bʌn/

/bʌd/

hang

/hæŋ/

/hæg/

 

If you have followed the reasoning presented in PHONOLOGY 101 so far, it may well have occurred to you that phonological simplifying processes that can operate in syllable-initial position and syllable-final position might also operate in both positions at the same time. In principle, this is the case. So, for example, we may come across realisations such as the following.

 

mum

/mʌm/

/bʌb/

noon

/nun/

/dud/

 

To keep our descriptions simpler, however, we will not generally show examples of a process operating in both syllable-initial and syllable-final position. However, it is worth bearing in mind the possibility that this dual position process may operate.

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