An acoustic study of nasal consonants in three Central Australian languages Academic Article uri icon


  • This study presents nasal consonant data from 21 speakers of three Central Australian languages: Arrernte, Pitjantjatjara and Warlpiri. The six nasals considered are bilabial /m/, dental /n/, alveolar /n/, retroflex /ɳ/, alveo-palatal /ɲ/, and velar /ŋ/. Nasal formant and bandwidth values are examined, as are the locations of spectral minima. Several differences are found between the bilabial /m/ and the velar /ŋ/, and also the palatal /ɲ/. The remaining coronal nasals /n n ɳ/ are not well differentiated within the nasal murmur, but their average bandwidths are lower than for the other nasal consonants. Broader spectral shape measures (Centre of Gravity and Standard Deviation) are also considered, and comparisons are made with data for stops and laterals in these languages based on the same spectral measures. It is suggested that nasals are not as easily differentiated using the various measures examined here as are stops and laterals. It is also suggested that existing models of nasal consonants do not fully account for the observed differences between the various nasal places of articulation; and that oral formants, in addition to anti-formants, contribute substantially to the output spectrum of nasal consonants.

publication date

  • February 2016