Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Jason Bishop

Committee Members

Douglas Whalen

Christina Hagedorn

Jason Shaw

Wei-Rong Chen

Subject Categories

Phonetics and Phonology


Incomplete neutralization, Palatalization, Articulatory Phonology, Russian, Temporal coordination


Previous studies have found small but significant phonetic traces of underlying distinctions for phonologically “neutralized” contrasts. This phenomenon, often called incomplete neutralization, has been found for final devoicing in many languages, (e.g., German; Port, Robert F. & O’Dell, 1985), but has also been reported for other neutralizing phenomena, including flapping in American English (Herd et al., 2010), monomoraic lengthening in Japanese (Braver & Kawahara, 2016), vowel deletion in French (Fougeron & Steriade, 1997), vowel epenthesis in Levantine Arabic (Gouskova & Hall, 2009), among others.

In my dissertation, I explore the (in)completeness of Russian palatalization in the Articulatory Phonology framework, implementing gestural coordination of complex segments and segment sequences. In Russian, the contrast between a palatalized consonant (e.g., /lj/) and a plain consonant (e.g., /l/) is reported to be neutralized to the palatal counterpart when a plain consonant is followed by a glide. That is, the palatalization of the plain stop in the environment preceding palatal glides results in neutralization: e.g., /lʲut/ [lʲut] ‘fierce’ (underlyingly palatalization) vs. /ljut/ [lʲjut] ‘pour (3p pl)’(coarticulatory palatalization). However, given that “plain” consonants possibly feature a secondary articulation involving the retraction of the tongue dorsum (velarization/uvularization, see Litvin, 2014; Roon & Whalen, 2019; Skalozub, 1963), this dissertation tests the hypothesis that the gestural blending of two secondary articulation gestures (palatalization and velarization/uvularization) leads to the incomplete neutralization of underlying and coarticulatory palatalization in Russian.

To this end, this dissertation will explore how complete the neutralization is between underlyingly palatalized consonants and coarticulatorily palatalized consonants (underlyingly plain). In so doing, I will first quantify the extent of palatalization by investigating temporal coordination in both complex segments and segment sequences in Russian and English. I will then present Electromagnetic Articulography (EMA) experiments that examine temporal coordination and spatial positions of articulators involving both underlyingly and coarticulatorily palatalized consonants in Russian. I will also present simulations from computational modeling that can be tested against EMA recordings.

In the first experiment, evidence from articulatory kinematic data collected with EMA on Russian palatalized consonants and English consonant-glide sequences revealed that gestural coordination for complex segments (Russian) differs from segment sequences (English). Specifically, the Russian data is consistent with the hypothesis that the constituent gestures of complex segments are coordinated according to their gesture onsets, showing no correlation between G1 duration and onset lag. In contrast, the English data exhibits a positive correlation between G1 duration and onset lag, suggesting that G2 is timed to some gestural landmark later in the unfolding of G1.

Results from a second EMA experiment regarding incomplete neutralization of Russian palatalization also reveal that the palatal-plain contrast is neutralized, but more importantly, this neutralization is phonetically incomplete. In particular, both types of palatalizations exhibit the temporal coordination of complex segments, suggesting that plain consonants in the coarticulatory palatalization context are also palatalized. However, I also find residual evidence of an underlying tongue dorsum retraction for the coarticulatory palatalization. This is in line with previous findings of Russian plain consonants having secondary velarization. The computational simulations show that gestural blending of palatalization and velarization as well as their eccentric timing in coarticulatory palatalization results in incomplete neutralization of underlying and coarticulatory palatalization in Russian.

This dissertation provides new insights for interpreting incomplete neutralization in the AP framework by showing that at least some cases of incomplete neutralization can be accounted for by gestural overlap. The results present substantial potential for the gestural overlap account to be generalized across a wide range of incomplete neutralization, including final devoicing. This dissertation is important both for the analysis of Russian palatalization and for discussion on incomplete neutralization, as well as articulatory phonology more generally.