Dept. of Linguistics, Ohio State Univ., 222 Oxley Hall, 1712 Neil Ave., Columbus, OH 43210-1298
In Tamil there are 5 liquid consonants. They are the lateral approximation [l], the retroflex lateral approximant [(hooked ell)], the alveolar tap [|i], the retroflex tap [|p], and an obscure segment that has been variously described. This paper presents electropalatography data from one speaker and perceptual data from five listeners exploring the articulatory and acoustic dimensions of the phonetic space for liquids in Tamil. The dimensions which are explored include duration (distinguishing flaps and approximants), dynamic tongue movement (distinguishing retroflex and nonretro-flex), and constriction location/spectral shape (distinguishing [l] and the obscure liquid). Preliminary analyses suggest that the obscure liquid of Tamil is an apicopalatal central approximant. However, unlike other segments in Tamil which require tongue tip backing (the retroflexes) there is no evidence of dynamic tongue movement during the closure and some suggestion of acoustic zeros, perhaps from a lateral opening. Additional perception data designed to clarify this picture will be presented.