Journal of the International Phonetic Association

Problems in the classification of approximants

Eugenio Martínez-Celdrán a1
a1 Laboratori de Fonètica, Facultat de Filologia, Universitat de Barcelona.

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The aim of this paper is to show that the approximant feature refers to a phonetic class which includes other subcategories of sounds, such as semi-vowels, rhotics, laterals and a subset of consonants. The consonants – due to the lack of articulatory precision – keep neither the obligatory closure for stops nor the aerodynamic characteristics required to produce a turbulent airstream, as is characteristic of fricatives. I am referring to these sounds as [[Voiced bilabial fricative] [Voiced dental fricative] [Voiced palatal fricative] [Voiced velar fricative]]. Moreover, I suggest a new definition of the approximant feature, which points out that the outflow of non-turbulent airstream is caused by either the opening of the organs or the lack of articulatory precision, or even both phenomena together.