Gutturals in phonetic terms
- Číslo 2 
PublisherUniverzita Karlova, Filozofická fakulta
SourceChatreššar, 2018, 2, 5-15
Afroasiatic languages, Semitic languages, Tiberian Hebrew, phonetics, gutturals, laryngeals, pharyngeals, radicals, epiglottals, uvulars, postvelars, emphatics, ejectives, vocal folds, glottal plosive, glottalization, laryngealization, pharyngealization, velarization
“Guttural” is a vaguely or variably defined term in the phonology of ancient Semitic languages, especially Tiberian Hebrew. It can include laryngeals, pharyngeals, epiglottals, uvulars, and sometimes postvelars; pharyngealized emphatics should be covered too, though they are not; and often, inexplicably, all rhotics are included, even though only uvular ones should be eligible. In general, “guttural” seems to be a purely phonology-based concept, out of step with phonetic considerations. Sounds of speech, however, are more than abstract nodes in charts; they have material substance, which both affects and is affected by neighboring sounds. Over time, a secondary manifestation can assume the phonological position of a sound, gradually making the sound itself redundant and prone to disappearance. This may well have been the origin of the disputed Semitic *ġ, provided that a secondary articulation, velarization or possibly pharygealization, took over and became a full-fledged [ɣ]. If teachers employ the inherited term “gutturals”, they sometimes tend to present them as imposing [a]-vowels wherever possible. This is a phonetically unsubstantiated claim, as laryngeals impose no vocalic colour; uvulars and postvelars would enhance [o] and [u], if anything at all; epiglottals may front the back vowels (i.e. towards [e]) and lower only the front vowels; the inherent [ɑ]-colour of pharyngeals seems to lag behind rather than anticipate (which might be language-specific); and pharyngealized consonants, excluded from gutturals in any case, are observed to move vowels back rather than down. Articulations “behind the tongue”, so crucial for Semitic phonologies, present numerous complexities: difficult to observe, frequently substituting for one another, and involving issues of terminology as well as interpretation of scripts. Here too, modern phonetic studies can furnish acoustic and physiological data to support hypotheses about languages of the ancient world.