On 30 August at 12.15 Helen Türk will defend her doctoral thesis "Consonantal quantity systems in Estonian and Inari Saami".
Dr Pärtel Lippus, University of Tartu
Professor Karl Pajusalu, University of Tartu.
Professor Martti Vainio, University of Helsinki.
Quantity systems with three length categories for consonants can be found in a small number of languages, all of which belong to the Finno-Ugric languages: Estonian, Livonian, Inari Saami, and some other Saami languages. The focus of this dissertation is on two of them, Estonian and Inari Saami, the former belonging to the Finnic and the latter to the Saamic branch. Estonian exhibits a complex quantity system forming ternary length categories with vowels, consonants, or combinations of both. In Inari Saami, ternary length distinction is found for consonants, while vocalic quantity shows binary oppositions. This thesis comprises experimental phonetic studies answering two main questions: how is ternary consonantal quantity in Estonian and Inari Saami realized phonetically, and how does quantity interact with segmental context.
The results showed that, in both languages, the three-way consonantal quantity is manifested in consonant durations that are longer in higher quantity degrees. While Estonian first and second quantity are further apart from each other, in Inari Saami second and third quantity are more distinct. Cross-linguistic differences also appear in the relations between intervocalic consonants and neighboring vowels. In Estonian, the vowel following the consonant is shorter after a long and overlong consonant than after a short one. Quantity differences in Inari Saami are realized in shorter durations of both vowels in terms of increasing consonantal quantity. Fundamental frequency contours in Inari Saami are roughly the same in words with different structures. Intensity measures, however, show greater differences between the vowels surrounding the consonant when the quantity of the consonant increases. The intensity of the sonorant consonant does not change in different quantities.
The results of the articulatory study of this thesis show variation in quantity manifestations in Estonian geminate consonants due to varied segmental context. Some articulatory movements exhibit three-way patterns associated with quantity categories (in the duration of the lip closing gesture for the consonant and tongue transition gesture from the preceding vowel to the following vowel); for others the first and second quantity are opposed to the third quantity or the first quantity degree is opposed to the second and third ones. Similar patters were found in the acoustic data from spontaneous speech. The durational properties of ternary quantity are realized differently for different intervocalic consonants, and variation is also caused by coarticulatory effects of the surrounding vowels.